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Unite Students Statement on Fire Safety – 19 July 2017

19 July 2017

We have recently been informed that under a new scheme set up by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG), samples of cladding from six Unite properties have not met the initial test’s standard of ‘limited combustibility’. The buildings are: Sky Plaza and Concept Place in Leeds; Greetham Street in Portsmouth; Olympic Way and St Pancras Way in London; and Waverley House in Bristol.

The advice endorsed by the National Fire Chiefs’ Council makes clear that the fire risks posed by buildings which do not meet the ‘limited combustibility’ standard can nonetheless be mitigated by other actions and additional checks.

Local fire and rescue authorities have already undertaken a detailed inspection of Sky Plaza, Concept Place, Greetham Street, Olympic Way, St Pancras Way and Waverley House. They have concluded that, subject to some minor adjustments, the buildings can continue to be occupied. These additional measures will be implemented immediately.

Waverley House and Concept Place are currently unoccupied by students.

Safety is our first priority. Based on the advice of experts from the relevant local fire authorities and bearing in mind the wide range of fire prevention measures we have in place, we believe our buildings are safe for occupation. Over the long term, we’re committed to making sure all our buildings are as safe as possible and will continue working with government, local fire authorities and other fire safety experts, particularly as the next phase of the government’s testing scheme progresses. Based on the outcome of this testing and the advice we are given, we will do everything necessary to ensure our buildings remain safe.

We are confident that we have effective fire safety systems and procedures in place in all of our buildings.

In addition to our existing fire prevention and reporting measures, as an extra precaution staff trained in fire safety and evacuation procedures will be on site 24 hours a day. We have written to all students at Sky Plaza, Greetham Street, Olympic Way and St Pancras Way informing them of these developments and reminding them of our emergency fire procedures. We have also put in place a dedicated information line for students.

We will continue to work closely with DCLG as they move to the second phase of their testing scheme.

Further information

The safety of our buildings is a matter of critical importance to Unite Students and the students who live with us. In every case, the design of our buildings incorporates a comprehensive fire strategy.

  • All of Unite’s properties have been designed to meet stringent fire safety requirements and have the necessary life safety systems installed that match the individual requirements of each building. This may include but will not be limited to alarm systems, sprinklers, dry/wet risers and automatic smoke ventilation.
  • We have fully addressable L (Life) type fire alarm systems in all of our properties which means that all areas of the premises are covered with detection, including bedrooms, kitchens, plant rooms and communal areas. This alarm is also connected to an internal Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) that is manned 24/7 and 365 days of the year.   We routinely work closely with experts from local fire services to make sure these are effective.
  • All of our buildings are designed to ensure compartmentation in the event of an incident, for example fire doors with self-closers are fitted as standard. We work closely with members of the Association for Specialist Fire Protection to ensure the fire strategy of our buildings is not compromised through a series of regular checks as part of our Fire Assessment Regime.
  • All our systems and fire safety procedures are tested rigorously and regularly.
  • In addition to the physical fire safety measures Unite has in place, its staff are trained on their duties to undertake with regards to proactive and reactive fire safety management, which includes building inspections, routine fire alarm testing, evacuations and inductions for residents. In the event of smoke or heat being detected, Unite’s systems assume that a fire situation is present and all residents are prompted to evacuate.
  • All of Unite’s life systems are robustly tested in line with British Standards guidelines by competent staff and accredited third parties to ensure that they are operational at all times.  Unite conducts routine inspections on all plant and equipment including electrical and gas systems using accredited personal and third parties.