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Fire chiefs advise on telecare safety

Posted on 27 Jun, 2017

Fire chiefs have called on the TEC sector to review their telecare systems and procedures to help reduce the risk of harm from fire in housing for vulnerable people.

The guidance from the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) makes key recommendations for telecare providers, manufacturers and monitoring centres aimed at reducing the risk to 750,000 residents living in supported housing, extra care and sheltered accommodation.

It highlights issues with some telecare systems which mean that once a speech channel between a resident’s flat and an alarm receiving centre (ARC) has been opened (eg because a cord has been pulled) smoke alarm systems are blocked from transmission. Smoke alarm signals from other flats may simply result in a call waiting tone, with the call handler having no idea that residents are attempting to report a possible fire.

The guidance, Fire safety in specialised housing, says new telecare systems should be designed to overcome these issues.

Other recommendations include:

  • There should be remote smoke detection in every flat in a sheltered housing scheme, even when residents are not especially vulnerable
  • Fire alarm signals from every flat should be remotely monitored by staff and/or an ARC in all sheltered and extra care housing
  • Wherever possible, telecare ARCs should comply with the recommendations of BS 8591 for a Category 1 remote centre. Organisations selecting an ARC should give preference to those who meet this standard.
  • The engineering of telecare systems used to transmit fire alarm signals should be of equivalent integrity, reliability and resilience as equipment generally used for remote transmission of fire alarm signals
  • Staff must be able to easily distinguish fire signals from social alarm signals
  • The telecare industry and housing sector should work with manufacturers to ensure that new and upgraded telecare systems meet the standards laid out in the report

TSA training associate, Gillian Austin, said:

‘We welcome this guidance which is the culmination of three years of work, supported by TSA and key stakeholders across health, housing, social care, voluntary and third sector organisations, government agencies and emergency services

‘Free online awareness training on fire safety is now available and our new face to face call handling training will be available at the end of this month [June]. TSA is also preparing to launch competency based training and assessment modules in call handling, installation and response later in the year to underpin knowledge for good practice alongside our new quality standards framework.

‘We must continue to work together to improve consistency and reduce risk to vulnerable residents.’

Fire safety in specialised housing is available to download from the National Fire Chiefs Council website.

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