Alternate fire safety strategies for the London residents living with waking watches  


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New data has revealed 1,149 buildings in London have fire safety defects so severe that they need 24-hour patrols. As the number of buildings failing fire safety inspections grows faster than owners can make them safe, more residents are living the financial burden of waking watches and the emotional toll of waiting months, or years, to feel secure in their homes. 

The cost of employing one person to carry out waking watch duties 24 hours a day exceeds the average one-off cost of installing a fire alarm system in three to six months, depending on the hourly rate charged. 

The Government recently boosted the Waking Watch Relief Fund to £57m to cover the cost of installing alarm systems in high-rise buildings with dangerous cladding, removing or reducing the need for waking watches. However, with limited funding available, thousands may be left paying for fire marshals to patrol blocks 24 hours a day, costing over £11,000 on average per building every month. The fund also generally only covers the upfront capital costs of installing a fire safety system in buildings with unsafe cladding. Therefore, residents impacted by non-cladding issues which render their buildings unsafe may continue to face ongoing waking watch costs and remediation bills. 

As it becomes clear that a change in fire safety strategy is essential, industry experts are looking at alternative strategies that can maximise fire safety while minimising costs.  

Nick Rutter, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer of fire safety technology experts FireAngel, says, “Since the Grenfell Tower tragedy, thousands of residents in London alone have been forced to rely on 24-hour fire safety patrols. However, they’re expensive and only designed to work as an interim measure. Relying on humans for fire prevention shouldn’t be the only intervention and it certainly isn’t sustainable long term. 

We’re at a stage where technology can shoulder some of the responsibility of fire safety, and protect residents and homes more effectively.  

Connected technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help cut fire risks within the parameters of an existing budget, offering residents, building safety managers and landlords more intelligent ways to manage their properties. 

Smart fire safety systems can remove the need to physically access properties, with maintenance data and risk analysis for each device and property reported via an intuitive dashboard. Data monitored in real-time can alert residents, developers and social housing providers to the status of alarms in a property, for example, if triggered or in need of maintenance, in turn, eliminating wasteful visits, time and administration fees. 

Our connected solution creates a network that can detect fire, carbon monoxide, and dangerous temperatures. The network can then send rapid, detailed alerts if it registers heat, smoke, or gas – so even if a tenant cannot call for help themselves, the fire service can be contacted and dispatched at speed.  

Equipped with our unique Predict™ technology, patented in application, our solution can highlight trends and patterns of high-risk behaviour. For example, it can show if a tenant’s alarm is triggered frequently due to electrical appliances overheating, prompting early intervention from a housing officer or a home fire safety visit from the Fire and Rescue Service. The ability to cut costs while raising fire safety standards can relieve the economic burden, improve residents’ quality of life, and prevent a fire before it becomes a 999 call. 

Looking to the future, a combination of IoT, robust fire detection and alert systems and evacuation plans could replace the need for waking watches completely, helping tenants who fall outside of the relief fund feel safe in their own home.” 

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