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Fire Hydrant Blocked by Being Under a Car Space


Jamie Stedham

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Jamie Stedham

Hello all, and thank you for allowing me to join your forum!

As per the title, the fire hydrant for my building is under a car parking bay. Also, the estate has no hydrant signs either. The next hydrant is within the reg's for distance, but around a corner, and would take a while to find, roll out the hoses, and connect to.

The Estate Management "Senior Property Manager" says they are they follow best practice, and are fully compliant with testing and inspections as per BS9990. Have inspections by the LFB teams for familiarisation , and the hydrants regularly maintained and painted annually. So a minimum amount of effort on his part. Especially when I photographed  a few hydrants that had their yellow paint worn off.

Also, the common area stairwell has a smoke detector that according to the manufacturer, Bardic, now no longer trading, has a 10 year life expectancy and should be replaced. We have the original detector, and their contractors state that as long as it works on their annual test, it's OK to continue to be used and not replaced.

If anyone can offer advice, I would really appreciate it as there is only one exit from this building.

Also, do firefighters find hydrant signs helpful, or unneeded with digital maps these days?

Thanks!

Jamie Stedham

Sorry for posting in the wrong forum!

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17 minutes ago, Jamie Stedham said:

Also, do firefighters find hydrant signs helpful, or unneeded with digital maps these days

Jamie, I will let some of our fire safety experts answer your main post especially as you quote BS standards etc. However, I will answer the hydrant signs question. Yes, we find them useful. The majority of hydrants are located on the fire appliance computers using GPS so we do know the location of them, providing of course they have been put in the system. Not all are easily identifiable so the yellow hydrant plates are useful, especially when there is a rapid need to find one. Firefighters can simply scan around the area, sometimes quicker than using the appliance GPS and get water quicker.  

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Jamie Stedham

Hi Carl, Thank you so much for responding so quickly!

The BS blurb was sent to me in my enquiry as to why we have no fire hydrant signs on the estate, and as it is private property, I was told that. I'm glad to hear that the signs to help firefighters. My dad is non-operational now from what I know, but any assistance to you firefighters cannot hurt as I see it!

http://tinypic.com/r/a2stv/9

If any other firefighters feel like hydrant signs, and regularly painted yellow hydrant plates help them do their job, I would love to hear from you! I would only benefit us residents here, if the worst should happen.

This is a residential block of flats BTW. Consisting of 1, 2 and 3 bed flats. Not a business address, despite the address name Building 48! Old wartime warehouses converted into flats.1800's warehouses that used to supply the Military and Navy.

Jamie

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Messyshaw
17 hours ago, Jamie Stedham said:

The Estate Management "Senior Property Manager" says they are they follow best practice,

This guy sounds like a Grade A pillock! Best practice = a hydrant in a car parking bay? To be fair, if these private hydrant locations are located due to the former use of the site, then the current estates management either live with them or extend the flow bed and lose a parking space. We all know that parking = £££ especially in that part of the world!

As you may be aware, the common parts of your block are subject to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. That requires the owners or managing agents to carry out regular fire risk assessments (FRA) to determine what fire safety measures are in place and what additional measures are required. In certain circumstances the FRA must be 'recorded' (using in writing). I am sure this will be the case where you live. You should ask your estates management if you could have sight of the latest FRA report - or if they are unwilling - you could request a redacted version that just shows the 'significant findings'.

Any decent risk assessment (and there's 101 crap FRAS for every good one!!) will show the details of the fire detection system fitted to your building. It may show the maintenance arrangements if it is very detailed report. In any case, you may wish to ask to see the maintenance records for the fire detection while you are at it! If the FRA has determined the fire detection system to be suitable & sufficient, the estate managers are right not to waste money replacing it.

Be warned though, despite Grenfell and the significant fallout since, many estate management companies are less than cooperative. I have a friend who has bought a flat in a 3 year old block not far from you. The residents have paid for an independent survey/FRA as their landlords would not share their information and the relevant fire safety enforcement team seemed impotent to intervene. There appears to be a growing attitude with some estate management companies and builders that they will sit tight, do nothing, spend nothing and wait to see what they are obliged to do when the Grenfell Inquiry reports its findings. Even then, it will take months, maybe years for any Inquiry findings to be turned into a legal requirement. I hope your management company are amongst the rare breed of forward thinking cooperative teams

Good luck

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SteelCity

Bardic was a trading name of Gent Fire, they used this brand to sell basic conventional fire alarm systems to installers via wholesalers and Gent approved installers could also sell this onto electrical contractors to install. Generally it's very good kit, it's essentially Gent with a different label. Out of the many different types I've installed and maintained over many years before joining the fire service, it's definitely one of the most robust and reliable.

The 10 year recommended lifespan is correct but the installation company are also correct in the fact that if it responds within the given time frame when tested, and provided its tested at least once annually and also within a reasonably clean environment, then it can be left in use for longer. BS5839 states at least 2x site visits a year with every point tested at least once a year and the panel, batts, comms etc twice a year. Should the detector need replacing then any off the shelf conventional smoke detector will replace it (ie Gent, Apollo, Hochiki or any other diode base detector). The main thing is ensuring its maintained. 

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Jamie Stedham

Thanks for the advice guys!

@Messyshaw
The parking bays were £15k when first sold, and now being sold for £25k upwards. I very much doubt they would show me the FRA. They recently installed (a month ago) Gerda boxes at the entrances to the buildings, but are yet to have anything put in them: "The recently installed Gerda boxes will contain the individual building Fire Strategy Documents, Building Plans and the fire system ‘Cause and Effect’ document."

Because the warehouses have beams penetrating walls between flats, there are gaps around the plasterboard (where you cannot see unless at the same level) and that worries me as the walls are paper thin, and acoustically appear to have no insulation in between them.

@SteelCity,
I did not know that Bardic were a different brand, but same product as manufactured by Gent. My issue is that after the recommended lifespan has expired, personally I do not think an annual smoke test is adequate. I bought a can of Sabre artificial smoke to test all of my detectors, and I have one that doesn't respond. I installed another battery detector in that room. 

From what I can see, the smoke head in the stairwell has no sounder base on it, like we do in the flats. So I presume it only alerts the main office of a detection.
And some flats have either removed the chain door closer on their front door, or like mine, it only partially closes, not fully. Might be the intumescent strip interfering with it.

For my peace of mind, I've installed a Fire Angel 10 year battery smoke alarm in the communal corridor outside of my flat, one in the communal area by the stairs, and one on each floor of the staircase.

I'm sorry, but if they go off, I'm out of here. No way I'm waiting upstairs and a 40+ foot drop out of a window.

I just feel vulnerable with the nearest hydrant, which has no marker, under a parked car, and a 4 year out of date smoke detector in a communal staircase area, that only has to legally be checked annually. And some flat doors not automatically closing, or only partially closing.

Would a home made sign (Laminated)  like this benefit you in finding the hydrant in what could be dark and smokey conditions?

Jamie

Hydrant.jpg

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I didn't particularly want to weigh in on a fire safety related topic due to my very limited subject knowledge. As a firefighter the only things I want to point out to your are;

1) The Fire Angel's that you have installed in the communal areas will do next to nothing to alert you or anyone else in the event of a fire in the night hours. There is plenty of research that suggests that the decibels of the alarms do not have an effect at certain distances and behind doors/partitions. That is why many fire alarm systems in new build flats are hard wired so when one goes off, they all go off. Fire Angels do not work in that way.

2) The lack of the nearest hydrant poses something of a difficulty to the crews attending a fire but it is something we can and often overcome. A car parked on a hydrant is a nuisance at best unless it happens to be the only fire hydrant in a square mile. I know this is not the case with you because coincidentally I lived on the same estate as you for two years and if we become desperate then there is always the nearby body of water that divides north and south London....

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Jamie Stedham

Hi @Jamiejet Thank you for your reply!

We only have a small communal corridor, maybe 5m long and with 4 flats in each, and I can often hear others coming and going, or the postman's drop through the letterbox of a neighbour! So I hope that the one within 2m of my door would alert me, even if muffled.

As for the hydrant, yes it can be overcome, and another one sourced, but if time is of the essence, you guys and ladies shouldn't be having to hunt around for them with GPS units. After all, it might not even be on your patch, and with limited crew available, why not make it as easy for the crew? 

It's always beneficial to hear both sides of a discussion, and opinions! And I respect yours just as much as others.

Just out of interest, which building did you live in?

Jamie

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SteelCity

It's a grey area in relation to communal stairwells and notification of an activation within an individual apartment. Only HMO are required to have detection and audible alarms within sleeping areas, flats where individual tenants have their own living space but share access are not required to have this and the system will be designed just to ensure detection and sounder coverage within the communal areas / escape routes. 

Sounders should provide coverage of at least 65dB in these areas and most doors reduce this by at least 5-10dB per door. HMO and other systems that require sounders within the sleeping area (hotels etc) must provide at least 75dB at the bedhead so you can see how difficult this would be to provide in a block of private flats.

I have on a number of occasions revisited new installations and decommissioned sounders and detectors within individual flats after tenants complained to the building owner and they have in turn had this agreed with the insurance company and local fire service. BS5839 p6 covers domestic fire detection and provided these criteria are covered (mains powered interlinked smoke detectors, fire doors, compartment fire rating etc), and the communal areas comply with BS5839 p1, then most certifying bodies are happy. Add this to a number of apartment blocks having stay put policies then the last thing the fire service need is a stairwell and car park full of tenants. All new multistorey apartments will fully comply with fire regulations ensuring, amongst others things, at least 2x fire doors between the apartment and stairwell and fire rated compartments. 

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Jamie Stedham

Thanks for your reply @SteelCity!

I appreciate that the doors will reduce the sound, however I wasn't trying to install a first alert system, just a warning system that maybe heard by the flats and the walls would probably leak in more sound than the doors!

Just asking again, but would a fire hydrant sign benefit you in locating the hydrant if parked under a car, or if you had to search for one?
I do not understand why they are provided on public roads, but not required on private property where dwellings are present? Apart from legislation differences.

Jamie

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Hydrant plates are useful and indeed were to me when I was running down the street looking for one. Hydrant covers aren’t painted yellow here so the yellow plate is what we look for.  Are you sure there isn’t a plate for your hydrant posted on the nearest public road?  I’ve seen many plates over 50metres away from the hydrant. 

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Jamie Stedham

Hi @Noddy, No unfortunately. :(

This reply says it all:

"The lid on that chamber is wrong, there is no Fire Hydrant contained within it and as such the Team have painted it black not yellow.  We are trying to source a replacement cover from Thames Water as this is mis-leading. The BS simply states that the hydrant should be marked to make it easily identifiable. This can simply be done by painting the cover yellow. This meets the requirements."

And yet this happened today:

1807427320_HydrantLids.thumb.png.db69244abc4c30df6ba049917d467cb3.png

Total incompetence and lack of leadership. We now have two (water mains's?) identified as fire hydrants, that apparently are not.

  • Haha 1
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PuddleSplasher

I am an ex-Water Planning Officer who was responsible for "Hydrant maintenance teams" and one of the respective duties that I was involved with was deciding as and where Hydrants would be located in relation to building projects that came to my Office in "drawing plan form".

An opportunity arose whereby I contacted the Service Legal Team to discuss the location of a hydrant, just as you have similarily described. Sadly and though I never agreed with the outcome, I was informed that any hydrant located off a main road was denoted as a Private Hydrant and therefore remained the property of the "Estate" of which you talk. Thereafter the Fire Service could not inspect that hydrant for fear of damage liablility costs unless specifically asked by the building Owners of which they would pay any subsequent costs for damage and repairs. I was then requested to ensure this was signed off on the respective paperwork as a Special Service with associated costs.

Should the Estate ever have cause that the hydrants failed in the event of a fire then it was explained to me that the Health and Safety Executive would be involved and that would exonerate the Fire Service.

To clarify your answer on BS9990. I too will defer to Fire Safety as I believe this may involve a topic outwith my remit.

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Jamie Stedham

Thank you for your reply @PuddleSplasher.

I am unwilling to let this go, especially as the estate management team have made such an erroneous error, and no only admitting that they now know, or have known about a hydrant cover that could be misleading, and previously identified as on, and indicated that it was previously.

Jamie

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Jamie Stedham

I've just been told today 

"The requirement is to have an available fire hydrant within 40 metres of the building.  There are many hydrants within this distance, as such we are exceeding statutory requirements.  Again we will take the advice of the LFB and action any of their suggestions."

Nearest is 80 metres by my reckoning.
Jamie
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PuddleSplasher

Hi Jamie,

It's amazing how quickly time passes and though this will likely be construde as passing the buck, it's been around 12 years since I was in that office and cannot commit to any exact distances that any regulation stipulates. More so as the Standards may have changed within that time frame and it would be remiss of me to suggest otherwise.

Personally, I would defer to any of the local Water Planning Office's of any Fire Service and ask them to come out and have a closer inspection of the estate. At least that way you can have your doubts clarified and possibly eased should everything be above board. If the distance is indeed excessive there is generally a reasonable answer as to why it happened. Oversights can happen but they can be ammended.

Builders of any new premises work very closely with the Fire Service in relation to the positioning of hydrants and submit Plan Drawings to the respective Office for viewing and commenting upon. If the drawing met the Standards then it was passed and stamped as acceptable and the Builder carried on as normal. But if the required distance is insufficient to meet the regulations then I would be having a consultation with Fire Safety or an on site visit at the locus to ascertain the issues and have them fixed. The advice I received from Fire Safety pertaining to Fire Engineered Solutions in relation to a building would on occasion allow a hydrant to be outwith the standard distance as may have happened with your scenario of 80 metres.

On a side note. The Water Board own the Hydrants and fixtures but the Fire Service inspect them and make reports if they are defective directly to the Water Board. I recall that some water pipe valves are accessed by the Water Board for maintenance, increasing pressure etc. via what looks like a hydrant, complete with the same lid but inside is what we in the Fire Service call a "spindle". On other water pipe lines particularly at a dead end, ie in a Cul-de-sac or the end of a road the Water Board have what they call Terminal Valves (TV) or Terminal Hydrants (TH) and yet to all intents and purposes those are fire hydrants from a Fire Service point of view but they are not deemed hydrants by the Water Board.

Do you see some confusion entering the equation that not everything painted yellow is a Fire Hydrant? Most lids are generally marked but not always cast into the hydrant lid and marked (FH) even more so if it is a temporary replacement lid for a damaged one.

I can therefore understand very easily as to why you are quite concerned but to reiterate may I suggest that you have a chat with the Respective Water Planning section of your local Fire Service for further clarification.

Hope that helps you.

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Jamie Stedham

Hi @PuddleSplasher,

Thank you for your detailed reply and advice!
That is my next step. However they are retaliating now against me and the community garden I started by find minor faults that have gone un-commented on for weeks gone by, and only now are being brought to my attention and require immediate action. And minor things too. Very childish on their part IMO.

However I did spot this today.
361183608_HydrantPost.thumb.png.0a531723501fd834ec04fe93304d7650.png

Maybe they are slowly realising, safety IS the best policy?

Jamie

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  • 2 weeks later...
Jamie Stedham

Requested to see or sent the FRA for my building, and was ignored.

Requested to be told when the fire brigade services were going to be inspecting the hydrant under the car parking bay outside my building, and after a balcony fire that day in another building, and I was told:

"Dear Simon,

I would request to be notified of when, if any, inspection takes place by the London Fire Brigade, so that I can be present if I am available.

I think given the Brigade have been called twice in two days to the estate, fortunately without serious harm occurring, that this matter is urgent.
 
Kind regards,
 
Jamie Stedham"

"Jamie

 I have to agree I do not feel that your request is appropriate or warranted.  The Team are employed to manage the development as Simon has already stated.   

The LFB respond as required and were extremely happy with the fire provision and information yesterday and the Team response, they had no recommendations for any changes to the provision which mirrors that of the WARMC.  

Regards

Simon"


So even being present to witness the inspection is inappropriate and unwarranted.

And that was during office hours when the whole management "team" attended, and not after 5pm when they have left for the day, leaving a skeleton concierge and security staff to deal with this.

Jamie

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