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  • Zach Cook

The new government fund which is saving £50,000 a month

Following the tragic events of Grenfell Tower there was an apparent need for supportive services to be available to all occupants of high-rise developments, whilst assessments of building safety were conducted, and any improvements implemented. This service was called ‘Waking Watch Service or Fire Watch Service’.

What is Waking Watch (Fire Watch) Service?

This is a service where (highly qualified and skilled) team of people (i.e., security guards, fire wardens, marshals, and watchmen) are alert to any safety issues, by continually patrolling all floors and exterior perimeter of a building. They make sure the tenants and workers feel safe, giving peace of mind by ensuring the building is maintained 24/7. They also respond to a fire, assist in calling the fire service, ensure everyone in the building is fully aware of the emergency, and assist in simultaneous evacuation of all occupants.

This service may sound like a good solution, but the direct costs are absurdly high and are being passed on to the tenants. Peter Apps from Inside Housing investigated a Waking Watch scheme in East London and found that their 5-person team patrolling 24/7 results in costs of around £50,000 per month. This bill is then split between the 154 flats in the block, resulting in average costs of more than £300 a month each. Apps also uncovered that there are over 400 of these schemes that the fire services are aware of. [1]

Enter the Waking Watch Relief Fund

On 17 December 2020, the UK Government announced a £30 million fund to reduce excessive Waking Watch costs, and to support thousands of residents in high-rise buildings. The new Waking Watch Relief Fund will pay for the installation of fire alarm systems in high-rise buildings with cladding, by removing or reducing the need for costly interim safety measures.

The National Fire Chiefs Council have been clear in recent guidance that building owners should move to install common fire alarm systems as quickly as possible to reduce or remove dependence on waking watches.

The steps today will help worried 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.

This fund is available from January 2021 to leaseholders of such buildings, to install a suitable fire alarm system, without upfront investment. Some buildings have already installed these systems due to the significant savings this offers, as on average, leaseholders are paying £137 per month for a waking watch, and now can expect to collectively save over £3 million per month. [2]

What are the next steps?

A good fire safety risk assessment should also highlight the condition of other systems, these can include emergency lighting, fire doors, and escape routes. These safety systems should also be reviewed and upgraded to meet current regulations.

Once all safety systems meet regulations, compliance testing needs to be considered. These compliance tests are carried out regularly and usually require an on-site presence.

Vericon have designed and developed non-cost-prohibitive technologies, such as EmeRed, to reduce on-site presence and remotely carry out compliance testing. These systems not only save money over traditional testing, while also providing full compliance reports, real-time data analytics, and providing a full ROI in 1.85 years. Click here to read our case study

Make the investments today , save money for the future, and keep your tenants safe.

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