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Friday 19 January 2018

Councils told to inspect blocks of flats after Grenfell tragedy

The Grenfell tower blaze. Photo: GETTY
The Grenfell tower blaze. Photo: GETTY
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Councils have been ordered to complete fire safety inspections of apartment blocks containing social housing by July 19 next.

The Department of Housing has told local authorities that council-owned units, as well as those in buildings leased by local authorities in the private sector and those operated by Approved Housing Bodies, must be inspected "as a matter of urgency".

A circular letter says the "devastating fire" at Grenfell Tower in west London "highlights the critical importance of fire safety in residential accommodation".

The review will concentrate on common areas of the building, with a focus on ensuring all early warning systems including fire alarm and detection systems, emergency lighting and means of escape are in place.

The investigation into the Grenfell disaster suggests that external cladding and insulation failed to comply with safety standards.

The building code here allows for external cladding and insulation of "limited combustibility" to be fitted, but it must be approved, fitted in line with building regulations and prevent the spread of flames.

Councils have also been told to roll out further fire safety initiatives across primary schools and communities.

"Local authorities should aim to promote awareness of measures which provide protection from the dangers of fire as a matter of urgency," it adds.

Councils have been told to set out the number of units in multi-storey units, and to provide an assessment of "current compliance" with the code.

Details are also being sought of recent and planned awareness-raising initiatives, along with details of fire safety tests completed.

The Residential Tenancies Board is contacting 175,000 landlords to remind them of their obligations, while more than 50,000 builders and users of the Building Control Management System have also been contacted.

The National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management has also discussed the readiness of the fire authorities to respond to emergencies.

Irish Independent

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