Matt Hodges-Long 11/05/2021
Get ready for the Premises Information Box
“I therefore recommend that the owner and manager of every high-rise residential building be required by law:
a. to provide their local fire and rescue services with up-to-date plans in both paper and electronic form of every floor of the building identifying the location of key fire safety systems;
b. to ensure that the building contains a premises information box, the contents of which must include a copy of the up-to-date floor plans and information about the nature of any lift intended for use by the fire and rescue services.
I also recommend, insofar as it is not already the case, that all fire and rescue services be equipped to receive and store electronic plans and to make them available to incident commanders and control room managers.”
Sir Martin Moore-Bick, Grenfell Tower Inquiry Chair – October 2019
Change is coming
The above extract from the Grenfell Tower Phase 1 recommendations will form part of the new Fire Safety Act 2021. Having achieved Royal Assent a few weeks ago, the Government now has the legislative framework to implement these recommendations.
The new regulations are expected to be published by October 2021 and implemented soon after. This is all subject to change as it is at the discretion of the Government.
This article focuses on the role of the Premises Information Box and its pivotal role in the management of Fire Safety in residential buildings.
Scale & Scope
The government adopted definition of high-rise residential building is: over 18m or 6 storeys (whichever comes first). MHCLG estimates this to be approximately 13,000 blocks that will require a retrofit Premises Information Box.
It is proposed that Premises Information Boxes will be mandatory in all new buildings over 11m. There have also been calls for the retrofit height threshold to be reduced too.
What is a Premises Information Box?
It is a locked, red metal box, fixed to the wall of a building, containing paper-based information. It is there to assist the Fire and Rescue Service if they are called to an incident within the building.
We refer to this type of product as an Analogue Premises Information Box as it is literally a red metal box containing paper that has to be physically content managed and accessed.
What do you put in an Analogue Premises Information Box?
Work is ongoing to determine the legally required contents of each Box. Reading the Fire Safety Consultation paper (March 2021) from the Home Office, and assessing best practice, we expect the following items to be included:
- Floor plans marked up with fire safety equipment
- Site layout plan
- Fire fighting lift overview
- Fire Risk Assessment
- Contact details of the Responsible Person
- Evacuation plan
- Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan(s)
How much do Premises Information Boxes cost?
Individually, each Box seems to be in the region of £700 plus installation. So, in the context of the operating costs of an 18m+ building, this is not significant. Here is our estimate of costs to equip all 18m+ residential blocks with Premises Information Boxes. This includes the ongoing cost of maintenance:
- Analogue Premises Information Box – £720
- Installation – £200
- Printing and consumables – £30
Total: £950 plus VAT or £1,140 per block
13,000 blocks x £1,140 = £14.82M for all blocks
Ongoing maintenance of content including printing, site attendance, and audit, estimated at £300 per annum.
13,000 blocks x £300 = £3.9m per annum
Considerations for Responsible Persons
Premises Information Boxes are being implemented as a regulation within the revised Fire Safety Order. The exact timing has not been released, but it is expected the Boxes could become a legal requirement from as early as October 2021.
Responsible Persons will need to consider the time it will take to buy, install and populate the Boxes with content across their portfolio. They must also think about the process for Analogue Premises Information Box content management across a geographically dispersed portfolio. Out of date information could be more dangerous than no information at all!
The Fire Safety Act 2021 and GTIP1 Recommendations impose new information-sharing duties on the Responsible Person. The Analogue Box is just one of these duties. Many items required in the Analogue Box must also be shared with Residents and the Fire Service. The table below identifies these items:
It is important, therefore, that the RP regards the Analogue Box as a ‘stakeholder’ alongside Residents and the Fire Service when it comes to information sharing.
What is the best way to manage a portfolio of Analogue Premises Information Boxes?
We believe a Digital Premises Information Box solution (like TrackMyRisks) is the best way to manage all the compliance documents and evidence for each block. The Digital Premises Information Box can act as the ‘control copy’ of documents contained within the Analogue Premises Information Box (see diagram below).
As a single source of truth for each building, the Digital Box provides secure 24/7 access to Residents, Fire Service and other stakeholders. In an emergency situation, firefighters, control room staff and incident commanders can access digital information from the moment an emergency call is received. The Analogue Box, however, needs physical attendance on-site in order to access the information within.
From a Responsible Person’s perspective, the Digital Box automates the sharing process and tracking of expiry and renewal dates.
It is important to note that the Analogue Box, as proposed by the Grenfell Inquiry is not an intelligent solution. In short, it may or may not contain the correct information at the time of a fire. It cannot monitor or measure user behaviour and it cannot be accessed remotely for assurance purposes.
We believe, therefore, the Digital Box concept should be adopted with urgency and the Analogue Box viewed as a fallback solution and not the primary.
How long does it take to get a Digital Premises Information Box set up?
Our Software as a Service solution is available for same-day deployment on a monthly pay as you go basis with no long term contract.
How much does a Digital Premises Information Box cost?
This will depend on the number of Digital Boxes you need and the capacity of each. Typically the cost per Digital Box with unlimited secure users will be in the £5 – £30 per month range plus VAT. Please ask us for a detailed quote.
Can I see a Digital Premises Information Box in action?
Yes of course, we can demonstrate online any time, so please GET IN TOUCH to arrange a time.