Fire safety in student residences

Emma Yeomans made this Rhyddid Gwybodaeth request to Queen Mary University of London

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

Roedd y cais yn rhannol lwyddiannus.

Dear Queen Mary, University of London,

London Student is looking into fire safety in Queen Mary residences, in the light of recent events. We would like to put together a comparative picture of how Queen Mary keeps its students safe, and are thus searching for certain documents and records under the Freedom of Information Act.

We would like to know:

(A) For each residence owned by or under the management of Queen Mary, I would like to see the fire safety certificate, or documentation that fulfils the same purpose.

(B) Where residences owned or managed by Queen Mary are covered by cladding, I would like the specification and procurement orders (or similar documentation) for that cladding. I would like the same documents for insulation used in external walls and boundary walls.

(C) For each residence owned or managed by Queen Mary, I would like to see the contracts made between Queen Mary and the developers and/or building firms responsible for design and construction.

(D) Where Queen Mary has undertaken renovation, improvement, extension or other building works on an existing residence, I would like to see the plan for that work and the contracts involved, as in (C).

(E) For each residence owned or managed by Queen Mary, I would like the incident plan in the event of fires.

(F) Where Queen Mary has agreements with partner companies providing student accommodation, what documentation was provided to your organisation in order to assure that the university is protected from the risk of fire safety non-compliance?

Yours faithfully,

Emma Yeomans

QM FOI Enquiries, Queen Mary University of London

We acknowledge receipt of your request and will respond as soon as we can.

QM FOI Enquiries, Queen Mary University of London

1 Atodiad

Dear Emma Yeomans

 

Thank you for your email of 29^th June.

 

I am pleased to provide the following answers, although we cannot provide
everything you have asked for. This is because we estimate to fulfil your
request completely would exceed the appropriate limit as defined by the
Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit) Regulations
2004. For your information this is £450, calculated as the estimated cost
of one person spending 18 hours in determining whether the information is
held, then locating, retrieving and extracting the information. Section 12
of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 therefore makes provision for
public authorities to refuse such requests. In particular to locate all of
the contracts, orders, specifications etc. would be extremely
time-consuming.

 

a. There are no fire certificates for these buildings as these no longer
apply and the current legislation is enforced under the Regulatory Reform
Fire Safety Order. All residential properties have current fire risk
assessments attributed to them and these are attached (these will be sent
in three emails due to size).

 

b. We are currently gathering this information. These investigations
should be completed by 31st July, when we could release the information.
However, we can confirm that QMUL does not have any residential buildings,
18m or over, that are clad in Aluminium Composite Material (ACM).

 

c. Apart from it exceeding the appropriate limit when taken with the rest
of your request, as explained above, we believe that this information is
exempt under s.43 of the FOIA. Section 43(2) exempts information from
disclosure if this would be likely to prejudice any party’s commercial
interests. Disclosing the type of information requested would be likely to
prejudice the commercial interests of the companies who have contracted
for building works.

 

This exemption is subject to the public interest test. We recognise that
on the one hand there is always a public interest in the transparency of
an authority and releasing such information may allow for a greater
understanding of how contracts for building works are agreed, what is
covered and the cost. This would be in favour of the public interest and
releasing.

 

However, these private companies operate in competitive markets both
nationally and internationally. The contracts are negotiated on an
individual basis. This information could be useful to competitors, for
example by allowing them to adapt their tenders, but without taking in to
account non-tangible aspects, which may lead to inferior service, for
example. This could be to the detriment of our commercial partners and
quality could decline. We contend that it would not be in the public
interest if this were to occur and that the information is commercially
sensitive. On balance we therefore believe that the public interest in
maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the
information.

 

d. We can confirm that the residential properties have not had any
renovation/extensions carried out to the external facades and the only
improvements are the replacement of furniture/finishes internally. It is
not possible to provide all plans and contracts due to the appropriate
limit.

 

e. See FRAs. Also, the following is extracted from the residences fire
safety guidance which each student must read. To confirm their
understanding, all students must complete a quiz on the subject.

The following guidance is intended to supplement the QMUL procedures.
IN THE EVENT OF FIRE

If the alarm is not already sounding, raise the alarm by shouting ‘FIRE’
Activate a red break glass – found at the fire exit from the flat, block
or hall

IF THE ALARM SOUNDS

·         Leave the building immediately by the nearest available fire
exit

·         Close, but do not lock all doors behind you to prevent the
spread of fire

·         Do not use the lift – lifts automatically go to the ground floor
and will not operate when the alarm sounds

·         Report to the assembly point (as stated on the notice on the
back of the room door) and remain there until the ‘all clear’ is given by
the Security Service team (for Varden Street residents, please refer to
the Notice inside the accommodation)

·         Anyone who fails to evacuate immediately when the fire alarm
sounds will be dealt with under the Residences Disciplinary Procedures

 

f. All partner companies that provide student accommodation to QMUL are
members of ANUK:
[1]http://www.nationalcode.org/Upload/File/...

This Code applies specifically to accommodation that is occupied solely or
principally for persons for the purpose of undertaking a full time course
of further or higher education at the institution providing the
accommodation. This Code establishes a set of management standards for all
residential developments managed and controlled by educational
establishments (with the exception of head leased properties) and
specifies appropriate controls to ensure that the particular needs of
students are delivered effectively. This National Code has been designed
to offer educational establishments and students a framework to agree a
transparent and useful set of undertakings about how they wish to do
business with one another.

 

For specific information relating to Fire Safety, please refer to Section
6.9-6.14 of the Code:

6.9 All residential developments are provided with properly maintained
fire safety installations, and, unless a specific requirement not to
evacuate the building in the event of a fire is the preferred option,
instructions for the safe evacuation of the building are provided to
tenants. Periodic fire drills should also be carried out, and recorded, to
test the effectiveness of the evacuation procedures

6.10 The design of appropriate fire safety measures are determined in
compliance with a fire safety risk assessment and the relevant
requirements under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Reform Order 2006
and in consideration of the local authority’s HMO standards

6.11 Fire alarm and fire detection systems are maintained in proper
working order and these systems are tested in accordance with the British
Standard BS 5839-5 1988

6.12 Records of this testing are available to certify that the fire alarm
and emergency lighting systems have been checked in accordance with
legislative requirements and are in proper working condition

6.13 Tenants are provided with clear written guidelines on the fire safety
procedures, including details of the safety measures installed, why they
are there, how they operate and what to do in the event of a fire. Notices
containing this information are displayed in all rooms and communal areas

6.14 All exit routes, such as hallways, landings and staircases and
emergency exits are maintained safe and unobstructed to enable evacuation
of the dwelling in the event of fire.

 

We have had written assurances from all partner providers regarding fire
safety and cladding concerns.

 

If you are dissatisfied with this response, you may ask QMUL to conduct a
review of this decision.  To do this, please contact the College in
writing (including by fax, letter or email), describe the original
request, explain your grounds for dissatisfaction, and include an address
for correspondence.  You have 40 working days from receipt of this
communication to submit a review request.  When the review process has
been completed, if you are still dissatisfied, you may ask the Information
Commissioner to intervene. Please see [2]www.ico.org.uk for details.

Yours sincerely

 

Paul Smallcombe

Records & Information Compliance Manager

 

 

QM FOI Enquiries, Queen Mary University of London

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QM FOI Enquiries, Queen Mary University of London

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