As housing providers navigate the Fire Safety Act 2021, rising maintenance costs and the government’s white paper on social housing, there has never been a greater need for solutions that can unlock cost savings, accelerate operational efficiencies and, ultimately, protect tenants’ safety.
Connected technologies, such as the internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI), can help cut fire risks in housing while offering building safety managers and landlords more intelligent ways to manage their properties and budgets.
Post-Grenfell, more than 400 ‘waking watches’ were established around the country to monitor buildings. However, this interim measure is expensive, with the average fee per building in England costing nearly £18,000 per month. Research has shown that waking watches can exceed the cost of installing wired and wireless alarm systems within a matter of months.
Relying on humans for fire prevention shouldn’t be the only intervention and isn’t sustainable. Given that waking watches aim to ensure sufficient warning in the event of a fire, an IoT network that can provide 24/7 monitoring of buildings and send rapid, detailed safety alerts can transform fire safety and prevention management.
The intelligent way to manage fire risks
Connected technology can be used within the parameters of an existing budget and allow housing providers to take advantage of centralised, offsite monitoring so that multiple sites can be managed from a single place. Data monitored in real-time can alert housing providers to the status of alarms in a property (for example, if triggered or in need of maintenance), eliminating wasteful visits, staff time and administrative fees.
Connection to the IoT also enables housing providers to monitor essential features such as the building’s age and condition and the wear and tear of electrical appliances. This combination of IoT and AI technologies provides an overview of buildings and their changing fire risks, allowing housing providers to carry out maintenance checks or repairs at the point of need, ensuring costly problems are prevented and tenant safety is protected.
Looking to the future, a combination of IoT, robust fire detection and alert systems and evacuation plans unique to each resident’s needs could replace the need for on-site waking watches completely.
Compliance with changing legislation
Connected technology can also help housing providers remain agile while they wait for further updates to fire safety regulations. The Building Safety Bill, expected to be passed later this year, will transform the existing fire safety system and aim to increase accountability and transparency of fire safety throughout the life of a building. The IoT can help identify fire safety risks and which specific properties are affected, allowing for a prompt, targeted response from building managers and housing providers.
Connected technology can not only monitor the risk level of a building, but also its residents, providing critical data on their physical or mental status. Cognitive and physical impairments are factors that can influence the probability of a fire, fire detection and the ability to extinguish it or evacuate the property, placing disabled, aged and vulnerable residents most at risk.
Understanding why particular tenants are at greater risk can help housing providers prevent fire-related emergencies, with digital methods making this process simpler and less obtrusive for tenants.
Protection for disabled, aged & vulnerable residents
Technologies that are already familiar to many tenants, such as panic buttons or fall detectors, can be combined with new sensors that build on traditional fire alarms and carbon-monoxide detectors to provide holistic support.
For example, in the event of a cooker fire, a traditional heat alarm would only trigger once the fire had ignited and the temperature had already reached a dangerous level. However, installing a Stove Guard would prevent cooker fires by intelligently switching electric cookers off before a fire can even start.
With the right solution to combine these sensors and smart devices, housing providers can build a tailored IoT network to detect fire, carbon monoxide and dangerous temperatures.
For aged tenants and the estimated 43 per cent of tenants who with a long-term disability, the use of cutting-edge technology that remotely monitors their home environment has the potential to prevent life-threatening events and enable independent living for longer.
FireAngel Connected is a purpose-built cloud and IoT-based solution to help housing providers and their tenants monitor and mitigate fire risks throughout their properties. With the automated capabilities of FireAngel Predict built in, it helps to generate the reliable, accurate insights that housing providers need to protect their tenants, while maintaining a manageable and secure audit trail of data for each dwelling.
Since the Grenfell tragedy, there is huge interest in how IoT can provide real-time information, assess risk and engage with tenants to ensure they are and feel safe. With the right technologies, fire prevention and response can become easier, more effective and more proactive.
Nick Rutter is the co-founder and chief product officer at FireAngel.