Cladding on 231 high-rises is to be tested for fire risk

Inspections will be carried out on 231 high-rise buildings to ensure their external cladding is not a fire hazard.

Cladding on 231 high-rises is to be tested for fire risk

The safety checks are being held as a result of a review ordered by Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy after the Grenfell Tower fire in London last June, which killed 71 people.

Fire authorities around Ireland were asked to identify all buildings over six storeys or 18m in height which were fitted with external cladding or rain-screen systems.

They were also asked to determine if they needed to use their powers under the Fire Services Act 1981 to require a fire-safety assessment to be carried out on buildings on which such material had been used.

Mr Murphy had originally confined the review to residential blocks in Dublin, but later expanded it to all high-rise buildings in the country.

In reply to a question from Labour TD Brendan Ryan, the minister said 842 medium- and high-rise buildings had been identified by local authorities.

Mr Murphy said 291 buildings had some type of external cladding.

Following a preliminary assessment, the owners of 231 properties were asked to carry out detailed fire-safety audits.

They will examine the potential for a fire, involving the cladding system, to spread rapidly within the building or to other premises, and consider if immediate actions are necessary to improve the safety of the property.

Mr Murphy said that the information collected by local authorities about tall buildings would be used as part of the basis for prioritising pre-incident planning in each fire station area.

The minister said fire crews in each fire station would visit the highest-risk premises, such as hospitals, nursing homes, industrial plants, and shopping centres to familiarise themselves with the overall layout of a building and any specific risks and fire-safety features associated with the property.

Asked by Mr Ryan about staying in place or evacuating in the event of a high-rise fire, Mr Murphy said: “In most buildings and circumstances, the safest approach, and the default option, is for all occupants of the building to evacuate in the event of fire or alarm.”

However, he said special provisions covered buildings such as hospitals and nursing homes, where moving patients or residents might not be feasible or advisable.

“Generally, where residents receive warning of a fire in the building, outside their own flat, they should evacuate the building,” said Mr Murphy.

He said residents of buildings that contain flats should be informed by the property management company of the strategy and arrangements for evacuating them.

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