Fire safety at home
In the event of a fire
In an emergency, you should telephone 999 and ask for the fire service. Calls are free.
The London Fire Brigade handles fires and other emergencies across London. The London Fire Brigade also enforces fire safety laws, gives advice about fire safety and carries out various emergency-planning activities, including helping Tower Hamlets to plan for emergencies.
Prevent fires occurring in your home
Each year the London Fire Brigade attends around 1700 small fires in rubbish in this borough alone. Many of these fires result in damage to buildings and other property like cars. Please help us reduce the risk of these types of fires by taking some simple measures.
- Keep rubbish away from public areas until the night before collection. Ideally place rubbish out on the morning of collection.
- Store rubbish in a secure area until collection time. This will make it difficult for intruders to set light to it.
- Don’t pile rubbish against buildings.
- If you have a skip fill it up as soon as possible and have it collected promptly.
- Report any abandoned cars to the council.
- Don’t leave candles unattended.
- Shut doors - a door can give you 20 minutes protection in a fire.
- Put out smoking material properly.
- Keep matches away from children.
- Fit a smoke alarm - they save lives. Test your alarm weekly and please do not remove the battery. For information on where to site the smoke alarm contact your local fire station.
If you have a fire get out, get everybody else out and stay out!
The London Fire Brigade website covers a whole range of topics, including fire safety in the home and at work, fire regulations and certificates and fire safety guidelines. Find out about fire prevention, escaping safely if a fire does break out and how a smoke alarm can help save your life.
The a government website features safety tips and advice on potential hazards like cooking, smoking, candles, celebrations and electrical safety.
In December 2020, the government announced the Waking Watch Relief Fund to pay for the installation of common fire alarm systems in high-rise buildings with unsafe cladding, removing or reducing the need for waking watch. The GLA is administering the Waking Watch Relief Fund for buildings in London.
Your local fire safety office
For more information on your local fire safety office, please contact the London Fire Brigade.
Tower Hamlets Fire Safety Team
Tel: 020 8555 1200
Fax: 020 7587 2959
The Fire Safety Act (2021) received Royal Assent on 29 April 2021, though it is still to come into force. You can read about the Fire Safety Act on the government website. The Building Safety Bill, in its current form, was introduced to the House of Commons on 5 July 2021.
Both the Fire Safety Act and the Building Safety Bill intend to make sure that residents of high-rise buildings feel safer in their homes by significantly reducing fire risks. They are a response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy – to stop such an event from ever happening again and minimising fire risks to make sure that high-rise buildings are managed properly.
- No. This ban applies only to new buildings.
The ban on combustible materials in external walls applies to the external walls for residential blocks of flats, student accommodation, care homes, sheltered housing, hospitals and dormitories in boarding schools which are above 18 metres in height. It does not apply to any room in a hostel, hotel or a boarding house, and any commercial buildings.
The ban on combustible materials also applies to buildings where the above building types have balconies, sun shadings and solar panels attached to an external wall. The ban applies to new building work and to existing buildings going through a change of use such as office buildings being converted into apartments, which are above 18 metres in height.
- All materials which become part of an external wall or specified attachment must achieve European fire rating Class A2-s1, d0 (both limited combustibility) or Class A1 (non-combustible).
The Government has published these documents explaining the new requirements:
- The external wall system is made up of the outside wall of a residential building, including cladding, insulation, fire-break systems, etc. The external wall may be a cavity wall, rainscreen cladding system or an External Wall Insulation (EWI) system.
The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors developed the EWS1 form which came into use in December 2019. It records what assessment/fire survey has been carried out on the external wall system for buildings of 18 metres or more above ground level “or where specific concerns exist”.
Flat owners seeking to sell or re-mortgage their homes are asked by lenders to complete an EWS1 form. EWS1 forms are not a legal requirement but lenders may refuse a mortgage application where one cannot be produced.
The EWS process involves a fire safety assessment by a suitably qualified professional who completes the EWS1 form. More information can be found on the RICS website.
EWS1 forms are valid for five years. Where a building has been altered a new form may be needed.
The EWS is a set way for a building owner to confirm to valuers and lenders that an external cladding system on residential buildings in scope above 18 metres in height (approximately 6-storeys) has been assessed by a suitable expert. Not every building in scope above 18m will require an EWS1 form – only those with some form of combustible cladding or combustible material on balconies.
Owners of flats in buildings without cladding do not need an EWS1 form to sell or re-mortgage their property. This follows on from an agreement reached between the Government and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), UK Finance and the Building Societies Association (BSA). The full press release issued on 21st November 2020 by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.
Despite this announcement, there will be properties with issues other than cladding which will not become automatically exempt from a fire survey. Buildings with wooden balconies, and other safety issues, will still be required to undertake the external fire safety checks.
By exception there may be some residential buildings below 18m which may have ‘specific concerns. These would be 4 & 5 storey buildings in scope which may have combustible cladding or balconies with combustible materials, which are only a clear and obvious danger to life safety and may require remediation in accordance with the latest Government advice.
- No. Each EWS form is valid for an entire block/ building. It is valid for 5 years.
A valid EWS1 form can affect the buying, selling or the re-mortgaging of a property in one of two ways. The EWS form will either:
i. Confirm that there are no combustible materials; or
ii. Recommend that remedial works are carried out.
Where a building is found to need remedial works, these works will need to be carried out by the building owner, to ensure the safety of the building, The remedial work has to be completed before a mortgage can proceed unless the lender agrees otherwise.
The seller should request that their building owner or managing agent commissions an EWS1 assessment where their building is in scope. The building owner or managing agent is responsible for confirming what materials are on their building and whether an assessment is required.
The building owner should have a valid EWS1 form for the building to confirm that the external wall cladding system has been assessed by a suitable expert. A valuer or lender will also ask for an EWS1 form if they suspect an external wall cladding system may contain combustible materials for buildings in scope.
- No. The EWS1 process/ form is for building owners to undertake. Both sellers and buyers should be in contact with the building owner or their agent to ensure this takes place as quickly as possible, if a building 18m+ has cladding which may cause concern.
- If the building owner does not acknowledge their legal responsibility and refuses to undertake the assessment, we advise you to contact the London Fire Brigade. No one should be living in a building which is unsafe, and the building owners are the only ones who can progress this.
The EWS form must be completed by a fully qualified member of a relevant professional body within the construction industry with sufficient expertise to identify the relevant materials within the external wall cladding and attachments, including whether fire resisting cavity barriers and fire stopping have been installed correctly.
The Council cannot approve individual persons who can deliver the EWS1 and cannot advise on who can and cannot complete the EWS1 form/ process. Only qualified chartered members of the relevant professional bodies such as IFE and RICS will have the necessary self-assessed competence AND professional indemnity insurance to carry out this work.
This is up to the expert undertaking the assessment, but it must include evidence of the fire performance of materials used in the cladding.
While paperwork submitted by the building's original developer can form part of the evidence, it cannot be solely relied upon. Photo evidence of the cladding will be required, or a physical inspection where this is not available or inconclusive.
In some cases - even where all attempts to establish the cladding system have been taken – the makeup and composition of the external wall system may still be unclear. It may mean that intrusive tests may be required, alongside a more detailed review by a professional of a higher level of expertise. These tests may involve a hole being drilled into the wall or a section of cladding removed to identify the external wall system materials and their composition. It is important to identify the whole make-up of the cladding system and how it has been installed.
An EWS1 assessment is required every 5 years for each building or block. This means multiple sellers located in one block can use the same assessment to assist with the sale of their property.
Five years is intended to capture any renovation or adaptation work done to the building, as well as maintenance over that period.
However, a new EWS1 may be required within the 5-year period if substantial works have been completed to a property, affecting the original conclusions.
If an external wall cladding system requires remedial work then the valuer should take this into consideration in their valuation. A valuation will only be possible if the costs of the work are clear and there is a timeline for works to be completed. Lenders are unlikely to lend until remedial work has been completed, but some may choose to do so with retentions based on what they consider the risk to be.
The EWS assessment is for the building owner to oversee, but the resulting form should be available on request to all occupants in that block in the interests of transparency.
The EWS1 assessment is about the safety of different types of cladding wall systems used in residential buildings in scope located across the United Kingdom. It is not designed to assess other fire safety features or risks.
The person responsible for the building should have a fire risk assessment (FRA) for the building as this is an independent legal requirement that is already in place and does not commonly incorporate the assessment of external wall materials. Note this will change with the Fire Safety Bill coming into force in England and FRAs will need to cover the external cladding.
- No. ‘Nil valuations’ are used in the process of valuing a property for mortgage lending purposes, where a valuer is unable to provide a value at that moment in time i.e. when the valuers’ inspection takes place, due to insufficient information being available. Often a nil valuation signals that the lender requires further information before a valuation can be made, rather than a property being unsellable.