What is Waking Watch and its Duties?

What Does 'Waking Watch' Mean?

  • Detecting any fire inside your premises.
  • Warning inhabitants of the building and calling the Fire & Rescue Services in case of a fire.
  • Taking actions according to the respective property’s fire management strategy, which usually implies evacuation of the building.

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The government initiated the activity after the tragic incident of Grenfell tower. If the cladding is absent or faulty, it is required by law to change the evacuation policy from “stay put” to evacuation. Because of the high cost of Waking Watch, the government has announced several funds for helping landlords with non-compliant cladding in their buildings (18 meters tall or higher) by funding the Waking Watch activity. A separate fund was also initiated for the removal of unsafe cladding. Buildings that meet specific criteria are eligible for availing these funds.

Why is Fire Safety Important?

Many regulations and government standards require landlords with buildings such as apartments to ensure the safety of all occupants. These include FRS- Fire Safety Regulations 2022 (England), which will become applicable in 2023, FSA-Fire Safety Act 2021, and the EN50172 standard, which deals with emergency escape lighting systems. All these exist to protect people from tragedies like the Grenfell tower. It is your moral and legal responsibility as a landlord to ensure the safety of all occupants. You can land into legal trouble if you fail to comply with these regulations. The “landlord and tenant act” is another legal framework that requires you to ensure complete safety. In case of a hazard, if it is found that any casualty or injury occurred because of non-compliance with regulations, you can expect to land in jail or incur heavy fines apart from the closure of your business.

What is the Cost of a Waking Watch?

The expected cost of Waking Watch can start from £25k per week, but because this activity does not stop any day, the annual cost can go beyond thousands, making it problematic for many landlords. The hourly rate can range from £12 -30 per hour, which is much higher than installing a fire alarm system. The difference is so high that it makes Waking Watch looks incredibly out of place. A 2021 report estimated that Waking Watch costs the city of London around £ 16,000 per hour cumulatively. No matter how many funds the government may announce, this strategy will continue to become expensive and remain highly ineffective. Perhaps it is time for the government and landlords/business owners to reconsider their strategy and focus on other measures to ensure fire safety.

Fire Alarms Are Much Better Than Waking Watch

Because the Waking Watch even sounds like an extravagant cost, it is only wise for landlords to opt for an effective fire alarm system which complies with the NFCC’s guidelines (National Fire Chiefs Council) for residential properties. It has been estimated that the savings from installing a fire alarm system can be around 75% of the Waking Watch’s cost. It should also be noted that fire alarm systems are also much safer and more effective than people walking around the entire building constantly.

The “Simultaneous Evacuation Guidance” by NFCC recommends the installation of a common fire detection and alarm system and considers it more reliable. In fact, more recently issued guidelines lament the fact that many properties are still relying on Waking Watch instead of installing a proper fire alarm system. Various Fire & Rescue services acknowledge the fact that continuing Waking Watch is a highly labour-intensive activity and is not feasible for continuing over a more extended period. They highly recommend installing the latest and fully automatic fire alarm systems as a much better substitute.

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The Evident Advantages of Fire Alarm Systems

We have already established the cost-benefit of fire alarm systems over Walking Watch. Let us look at some other common-sense benefits.

Remote Access and Operation

The latest fire alarm systems resolve the problem of “keeping an eye” all the time. They come with WiFi connectivity which allows you to monitor them from anywhere. They can send alerts directly to your smartphone, eliminating the need for any Waking Watch. We highly recommend installing a wireless, fully automatic fire alarm & detection system with remote connectivity, reducing your safety costs and giving you immense control over your detection and alarm systems.

Easy Installation and Customisation

Wireless alarm and detection systems are the easiest and quickest to install without causing any disruption. They can be positioned anywhere in your building, and more than one can be installed if you have a large building. They can be easily customised to match your needs and requirements.

More Efficient at Detecting Fire

 The waking Watch relies significantly on people walking around a building and noticing a fire. Once they see it, they have to perform several activities, like alerting all occupants to evacuate the building and calling emergency services. In an emergency, this is an incredibly difficult activity which is extremely vulnerable to human error. Countless horrifying stories prove this point. No matter how efficient people get, they cannot match the speed of a fire-detecting system and an alarm loud enough to alert everyone instantly.

 Fire alarm detection systems use heat or smoke detectors, with the former being more effective than the latter as they hardly end up giving false alarms. So, with the proper detection system, you will not be facing the problem of false alarms.

Is a Waking Watch Required After You Install Fire Alarms?

The Government regulations on fire safety state, “Common Alarm systems will enable costly Waking Watch measures to be replaced in buildings waiting to have unsafe cladding removed”, and  “the guidance is clear: alarms are preferable on the grounds of both safety and cost efficiency.” Regulations require that your fire detection and alarm system be high quality and automatic. It should be installed by companies which are BAFE accredited.

The fire alarm design must comply with the recommendations in the British Standard BS 5839-1 for a Category L5 system.

It is extremely important to hire accredited providers with substantial experience.

The Way to Do It

Get a Risk Assessment

First and foremost, you need a fire risk assessment for your property to identify any weak or risky points in your property. Hire the right people for the job with the necessary accreditations and experience.

Get the Proper Fire Detection and Alarm System

After your risk assessment, don’t just jump to Waking Watch. Remember the cost involved in that. Instead, get the right safety system. Go for a wireless alarm system and go for heat detectors instead of smoke detectors or a combination of both. Ensure that the correct number of sensors and alarms are installed to provide full coverage to your building. The proper concentration of sensors and alarms is crucial to ensure a foolproof safety plan.

Fireproofing Your Building

This will not only reduce the fire risks but also enhance the performance of your fire alarm systems. It will also reduce the chances of injuries and casualties in the wake of a hazard. However, this will also take considerable planning and time, but once it is done, you can sleep peacefully. Fireproofing involves several steps, such as:

  • Cladding
  • Compartmentalise floors and walls using the proper fire-resistant installations between them, such as fire doors.
  • Clear escape routes, including stairwells on all storeys
  • Signage for exit routes
  • Installation of sprinklers at all the sensitive locations
  • Installation of dry risers (pipes for the Fire Brigades connected to water sources)

Key Takeaways

  • A waking watch is required by law for buildings with inadequate cladding.
  • A waking watch is a highly costly activity.
  • The government funds for cladding our constantly draining the government’s resources.
  • An automatic fire detection and alarm system which is fully automatic and offers modern features are sufficient for ensuring fire safety.
  • Heat sensors are better than smoke detectors.
  • Installations of these systems should be carried out by BAFE-registered companies.
  • Ensuring proper fireproofing of your building is equally important as installing a fire detection and alarm system.
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