Work completed on South Tyneside tower block sprinkler system as part of £1.4m safety drive

Work has been completed a new sprinkler system at a tower block in South Tyneside - with work set to start on the remaining three.
Durham Court tower block in Hebburn.Durham Court tower block in Hebburn.
Durham Court tower block in Hebburn.

Eighteen-storey Durham Court, in Hebburn, is now fitted with an automatic sprinkler system to provide reassurance for the 127 residents.

Frome left, Coun Mark Walsh, resident Peter Tallack and John Baines, Assistant Chief Fire Officer.Frome left, Coun Mark Walsh, resident Peter Tallack and John Baines, Assistant Chief Fire Officer.
Frome left, Coun Mark Walsh, resident Peter Tallack and John Baines, Assistant Chief Fire Officer.
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The work, which started in August, has included communal areas as well as residents’ individual properties.

Durham Court is the first of the borough’s four high rises to be fitted with the system.

Work to fit out the remaining three blocks – Wilkinson Court, Ellen Court and Monastery Court, all in Jarrow - will begin in the new year.

Coun Mark Walsh, Lead Member for Housing and Transport, said: “Our tenants’ safety and comfort is a priority for us, which is why we took this decision.

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“Our tower blocks are safe, but in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster we know people were looking for additional peace of mind.

“We hope that now their flats are fitted with this state-of-the-art system they will have that extra reassurance.

“Sprinkler systems significantly reduce injuries and damage to property.”

The work was carried out by COMPCO Fire Systems and South Tyneside Homes Property Services, who will begin work on Wilkinson Court in January. All three Jarrow blocks are expected to be completed next year.

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Durham Court resident Peter Tallack said: “I’ve been very impressed with the attitude and professionalism with everyone involved.

“My flat was done in less than two days and you’d never have known anyone had been in.

“We’re so pleased that the council took the initiative to do this and everyone feels a lot happier and safer now.”

John Baines, Assistant Chief Fire Officer at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We are delighted that the first of four high rise accommodation buildings in South Tyneside has now been retrofitted with sprinklers.

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“The residents at Durham Court can be further reassured by this strengthening of fire safety in their homes. We believe that retro-fitting sprinkler systems in existing buildings on a risk assessed basis, as well as installing them into new buildings, is a key element of an effective fire safety solution.

“Quite simply, sprinklers save lives, reduce injuries, improve firefighter safety and protect homes and businesses, which in turn supports the economy and protects the environment.”

Cladding systems in the blocks are fireproof and comply with building and planning regulations. However, following the Grenfell fire, South Tyneside Homes carried out fire safety inspections and commissioned an independent fire safety inspector to carry out a level four risk assessment in the four buildings.

English law requires only buildings constructed since 2007 and which are taller than 30m to have sprinklers fitted, and the law was not applied retroactively.

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South Tyneside Council has four tower blocks, housing around 286 residents:

* Ellen Court, Jarrow (12 storeys) - 57 residents;

* Monastery Court, Jarrow (12 storeys) - 51 residents;

* Wilkinson Court, Jarrow (12 storeys) - 51 residents;

* Durham Court, Hebburn (18 storeys) - 127 residents.

Fire safety in high rise buildings has for some time been one of South Tyneside Homes major strategic risks.

Due to the risks involved bosses have robust processes and procedures in place to both control and mitigate this risk, on a daily basis the team carry out the following checks:

* Carry out fire alarm panel checks;

* Carry out fire safety checks;

* Carry out checks to fire doors;

* Inspect all floor and communal areas;

* Check the dry risers within the building.

In addition the following work is undertaken:

* All of the high rise buildings have a fire risk assessment;

* All buildings have a FIRAS certificate;

* Weekly checks of communal areas;

* Weekly fire alarm tests;

* Quarterly inspections of the building;

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* Compliance Group in place which monitors all aspects of health and safety;

* Home safety checks to each property.