According to the Fire Chiefs Council, waking watches should only be used in buildings where there is a significant risk of fire spreading.

11 September 2023

Emergency safety measures have been implemented at a high-rise building in Woking after flammable cladding insulation was discovered. The New Central development, which has a peak height of 21 stories, left residents in shock when crews from Surrey Fire and Rescue were called to the scene on Wednesday, September 6th. One resident, who wished to remain anonymous, reported that the fire brigade was called to the estate and a waking watch was put in place due to flammable cladding insulation. The dangerous discovery has left the residents concerned and alarmed.

According to the National Fire Chiefs Council, a waking watch is when trained people “continually patrol” a building and its perimeter to detect fires, raise alarms and alert emergency services. They can also “carry out the duties that may be required to manage an evacuation if needed”.

Waking watches are used, it says, as an immediate solution to reduce the risk in a building and allow people to continue to live in it. Without them, the fire council says, the risk of fire may lead to a building being deemed "no longer appropriate" for occupation and the fire and rescue service issuing a prohibition notice. 

Waking watches should only be used, the fire chiefs council says, “where a significant risk of fire spreading in a building has been confirmed, to allow time for a more sustainable plan to be made without the need for residents to leave their homes”. It is understood the building’s insulation met safety standards when first installed but recent specification updates mean this is no longer the case.

A spokesperson for the building’s developer Barratt Development, said: “Following our initial investigations, the advice from the fire engineer is that an interim waking watch should be put in place. We are sorry for any inconvenience this causes but all of the costs will be met by Barratt.

“Investigations are still ongoing and we will let residents know the timings once they are complete. We are committed to doing the right thing, correcting any fire-safety defects and making sure no leaseholder has to pay for any remediation works.”

A Surrey Fire and Rescue (SFRS) spokesperson said it was "working closely in partnership with Woking Borough Council to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all residents of the New Central Development. The support that SFRS fire safety inspectors and its protection department provide, through the regulation of fire safety, helps shape the safety of both residents and businesses across Surrey through engagement with responsible parties". 

The development contained expanded polystyrene insulation (EPS), which, according to a report by the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, can cause "pool fires and vertical fire spread."

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