£30M alarm system fund for buildings with unsafe cladding

London, UK

The fund will cover the upfront capital costs of installing an alarm system.

The government has announced a new £30 million fund to pay for the costs of installing an alarm system in buildings with unsafe cladding. Common Alarms systems will enable costly Waking Watch measures to be replaced in buildings waiting to have unsafe cladding removed.

The fund builds on recently updated guidance published by the National Fire Chief’s Council (NFCC) on buildings that change from a ‘Stay Put’ to a ‘Simultaneous Evacuation’ fire safety strategy.

Whilst waking watch, when established and operated in accordance with NFCC guidance, is an acceptable risk mitigation strategy, the guidance is clear alarms are preferable on the grounds of both safety and cost efficiency.

Leaseholders who may have faced high costs for interim safety measures by providing financial support and delivering a better, long term fire safety system in their buildings will benefit from this new move.  However the government stresses that swift remediation of unsafe cladding, for which the government has provided £1.6 billion, remains the priority and this fund should not be considered as a substitute.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said: "I’ve heard first-hand from leaseholders the misery that rip-off waking watch costs have been bringing to residents of high-rise buildings with cladding. I’m announcing today a £30m Waking Watch Relief Fund to help relieve the financial pressure on those residents and to ensure they are safe. I’m confident that this will make a real difference to worried leaseholders up and down the country. We have continued to prioritise the removal of unsafe ACM cladding throughout the pandemic and expect around 95% of remediation work will have been completed or be underway by the end of this year."

The fund will cover the upfront capital costs of installing an alarm system. The common fire alarm system should generally be designed in accordance with the recommendations of BS 5839-1 for a Category L5 system, which is referred to in the NFCC’s revised guidance on simultaneous evacuation.

To be eligible a building must be in the private sector; be over 18 metres in height; have an unsafe cladding system;have a waking watch in place where these costs have been passed on to leaseholders;

Social sector buildings where the Registered Provider can evidence that waking watch costs have been passed to leaseholders and the costs of installing an alarm will fall on leaseholders will also be eligible.

The fund is due to open in January with the aim of providing funding for the installation of alarms as quickly as possible.  The government will be working with local authorities and Fire and Rescue Services on the delivery of the fund and will publish a prospectus with further information on any additional eligibility criteria and evidence requirements as soon as possible.

A 6-month extension to the deadline for building owners to complete their applications to the £1 billion Building Safety Fund has also been announced - with a new deadline for submissions of 30 June 2021.


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