A housing association which manages Chester’s nine refurbished tower blocks has reassured residents the external cladding is NOT the same type involved in the Grenfell Tower disaster.
So far at least 79 people are confirmed or presumed dead in the west London tragedy.
Investigators will consider whether the Grenfell Tower fire spread so rapidly because of external cladding which has also been fitted to Sanctuary Housing’s nine high rise blocks in Blacon and Newtown.
Cladding was installed to improve the appearance and insulation properties of the aging blocks.
But in a letter to tenants, Sanctuary confirmed the cladding fitted in Chester was of a different type.
Julie Nundy, operations manager, Chester and North West, wrote: “I can confirm that the aluminium composite material cladding used at Grenfell Tower is not the same cladding that is on the nine high rise blocks we have in Chester. In addition the fire service has visited the blocks, inspected their safety and raised no concerns.”
Current advice in the event of a blaze within a tower block is that tenants not directly involved in the fire should ‘stay put’ and seal themselves in unless advised to leave by the authorities.
Flats, with concrete walls and floors, are designed to offer fire protection for a long enough period to allow fire crews to either extinguish the blaze or carry out a safe evacuation (compartmentalisation). However, this did not work at Grenfell Tower.
Ms Nundy continued: “Residents have also queried the approach to ‘stay put’ in the case of a fire. I can confirm that the existing strategy to stay put remains in place and that has been confirmed by the fire service.
"This is because the building has been divided into sub-sections designed to stop fire from spreading (fire compartmentation).
“This means that flats are separated from each other using fire resisting materials in walls, floors and doors which contain the spread of fire and allow the fire service to extinguish the fire or carry out an orderly evacuation of the building if they deem it necessary.”
She offered the following advice in the event of a fire:
■ If the fire starts within your flat and activates your fire alarm then you must leave the flat immediately closing internal doors and your front door behind you. Dial 999 to alert the fire brigade telling them who you are, your flat number and the address of the property. This protection means any fire or smoke will be contained away from your evacuation route for between 30 to 60 minutes to enable fire crews to fight any fire and advise you on your safe evacuation.
■ If you become aware of a fire in another resident’s flat or communal area stay in your own flat and keep the door closed. Call 999 to alert the fire brigade telling them who you are, where you think the fire is and the address of the property. They would rather receive multiple calls than none at all. They will give you advice on staying safe.
■ Should you be given advice by the fire service, or staff, to leave the flat then do so, closing internal doors and your flat door behind you and making your way outside
■ Should it become apparent that your flat is being affected by a fire elsewhere in the building, for example, excessive smoke, rapid rise in temperature or visible flames inside or outside your flat, then leave immediately, closing internal doors and your flat door behind you and making your way outside.
Tenants are reminded of the need to keep communal areas clear and fire doors closed at all times.
Ms Nundy added: “Plans are underway to roll out sprinklers to our remaining high rise blocks in Chester and we will communicate with you further once timescales for this work have been decided.
"I hope that reassures you, but please do contact me further if you would like additional information.”