Government to pay for fire alarms in buildings with a waking watch

21 January 2022

Fire safety in high rise buildings has been back in the headlines this month (see Government tells developers to fix cladding crisis and Fire safety in purpose-built blocks of flats).

Now the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove, has agreed to provide a further £27 million to meet the costs of the installation of a common alarm system in all buildings with a waking watch.

A waking watch is required when the presence of dangerous cladding or fire safety issues changes the evacuation policy of a building from “stay put” to “simultaneous evacuation”. This change requires fire marshals to patrol the building 24 hours a day looking for signs of fire.

The Permanent Secretary at the MHCLG wrote to Mr Gove explaining that the £30 million of funding announced in December 2020 for the Waking Watch Relief Fund (WWRF) was proving insufficient to meet demand.

Based on his department’s analysis and advice, a further £27 million should be provided but that requires ministerial approval.

In reply, in a letter available here, Mr Gove gives the go-ahead.

He describes waking watch costs as a national scandal and agrees that there is an urgent need to tackle this problem given the detrimental impact it is having on leaseholders.

“It is my judgment that this course of action is clearly in the best interests of the people living in buildings with a waking watch,” Mr Gove concludes.