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SDL Bigwood

One of the country’s biggest and best-performing property auction houses, SDL Bigwood were taking no chances when it came to a fire safety situation

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“Without the help of Fire Safety Services, we would have faced a large and unnecessary expense to replace an entire smoke extract system. We were extremely pleased with FSS’s approach then, and continue to be highly satisfied to this day. They have always been totally honest and transparent on all projects.

“They continually prove their worth as a high-quality fire safety services supplier whom we know we can trust. We would recommend them to anyone who wants a supplier they can rely on 100%.”

SDL Bigwood

Fire Safety at SDL Bigwood

As a leading property management consultancy and one of the country’s biggest and best-performing property auction houses, SDL Bigwood were taking no chances when it came to a fire safety situation at one of the properties they manage.

Their UK network of six offices includes Birmingham where they manage a wide range of properties, most notably the landmark Latitude apartment building in the city’s Chinese quarter. It was here that the problem arose.

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How we came to the rescue

In 2009, we received an unexpected call. The car park smoke extract system in the Latitude building had malfunctioned due to a flood in the apartment block above. SDL Bigwood’s existing fire safety supplier had recommended a complete replacement system, which would cost thousands. Unsurprisingly, SDL Bigwood were keen to investigate the possibility of repair before committing to such a significant outlay, but were told this was not possible.

Dave Lewis who is Fire Safety Services’ service centre manager in Birmingham, has contacts far and wide across the industry and happened to know the company who originally installed the smoke extract system. When SDL Bigwood called the company to ask for help, they explained that without access to the fire alarm system (which was protected by access codes installed by the existing fire safety supplier), their hands were tied. Thinking on their feet, the company contacted Dave, who also had a good relationship with the fire alarm manufacturer and was able to liaise with them and reset the alarm codes.

What’s more, Dave worked closely with the smoke extract system manufacturer to repair the problem caused by the water damage. His strong technical background helped them to determine that the problem – far from being as catastrophic as originally suggested – could be solved by the simple replacement of two small component parts.

SDL Bigwood avoided a bill of thousands and were thrilled with the result.

The services we provide to SDL Bigwood today

As a direct result of our intervention and resolution of the problem, SDL Bigwood asked Fire Safety Services to provide prices for the fire alarm and emergency lighting maintenance contract for the whole Latitude Building. We were delighted to win the contract; what’s more, we were also awarded the dry riser inspection and maintenance contract, which we continue to service to this day.

Flexibility first

The call was unexpected because the repair of smoke extract systems is not a standard service that we offer to our customers. However, our knowledge and expertise in dealing with fire detection systems meant we already had extensive connections to specialist companies, hence the reason Dave received the original call.

All our service centre managers are trained to prioritise good relationships with a wide network of suppliers. This means in situations similar to the one SDL Bigwood encountered, we are resourceful enough to be able to offer customers a solution, even when it’s outside our usual remit.

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What is a smoke extract system?

They are often used in large buildings to protect residents. Ordinarily, the system cycles clean air into the building. But if there is a fire, the sounding of the fire alarm triggers the smoke extract system to suck any smoke from the vicinity and draw it out of the building via large smoke vents. This allows people inside the building to avoid deadly smoke fumes and evacuate safely.

Top 5-fire safety tips for Property Management Companies

Our fire risk assessors have carried out many fire risk assessments for a number of independent property management companies. The buildings vary greatly in size, use and fire risks within them. As you will appreciate, the fire risk in a block of flats compared to a managed office block or school are very diverse especially in the fire management procedures.  Here are the top 5 most overlooked points whilst inspecting managed properties:

1. Fire evacuation procedures

This is a common problem where the property management company and their employees have a comprehensive fire policy but the other users in the building are not aware of it! This, if not addressed could lead to confusion in the event of an evacuation. It is so important to ensure all users of your building know what the fire procedure is and are made aware of the fire exit routes and where to assemble (where necessary).

2. Fire evacuation drills

To address the above issue point 2 comes into play. This is the need to carry out fire evacuation drills preferably unplanned. This is the best way to test the emergency plan and those persons nominated to implement it. The evacuation should be timed from the first actuation of the signal to evacuate to the last person leaving the building. It is always interesting to carry out an evacuation of blocks of flats with a stay put policy! Try it and see how many stay put.

3. Joint responsibility for fire safety

Where the property management company is responsible for the communal areas only, you and all the other tenants have a joint responsibility for fire safety in the building. For instance, in a managed office block with a number of independent companies, all the individual tenants should have a fire risk assessment in place relating to areas under their control. Any risks identified should be shared with the other joint responsible persons. A very common overlooked issue is “who calls the fire and rescue service”? Many think someone else will do it, when in fact nobody has been delegated within the plan.

4. Use of communal cupboards

Another common issue is the use of communal riser cupboards and plant rooms. Having FB locks fitted generally controls this area within managed buildings. These fire brigade locks and keys allow key personnel and the fire service to access plant rooms and riser cupboards as required. In many buildings tenants have acquired keys from online sites and have taken over the cupboards for storage of combustible items. This increases the fire loading and risk of fire within the building. The best way to manage this is to conduct regular checks of the communal cupboards and clear out any items that should not be within them.

5. Fire safety maintenance

Testing and inspection of fire safety equipment is required periodically and records should be kept to show a history of compliance. For weekly testing of a fire alarm system, or monthly testing of emergency lighting, a tenant, caretaker or other suitably trained individual on site can carry this out. Periodic inspection and maintenance of equipment such as fire extinguishers, dry rising mains, fire alarm systems and emergency lighting should be carried out by competent persons; in most cases this should be a professional third party UKAS accredited fire protection service provider who can prove the competency of its operatives.

These are just five common points which can affect the fire preventive measures in managed buildings, if overlooked the problems can increase and could cause serious implications if not addressed.

For more information on our experience with management companies read our blog

Our blog is designed to give you a greater understanding about fire safety and how our services can help you. All of our blog posts are written by members of our team who have vast experience in specific aspects of fire safety, so you can be sure that the information you are reading comes from a qualified source.

For posts specifically about Management Companies – click here

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