Abbey View fire incident - your questions answered

Following the fire that took place at our Abbey View block on Tuesday 12th July, here are some answers to some frequently asked questions.

How did the fire start and is action being taken against those responsible?
The fire was the result of arson, relating to an item that had been illegally fly-tipped. We have been working in partnership with the police and Watford Borough Council to ensure that those responsible were identified using CCTV evidence and that the appropriate action is taken.
Did the building’s fire safety features work correctly?
Yes, the building incorporates a range of safety features and is designed to protect residents in the case of fire. It performed in line with our expectations to help minimise the spread of fire and keep residents safe.

In 2019, we spent approximately £1.5m on safety improvements at Abbey View and Munden view. This included upgrading the smoke and heat detectors and sounders within each home, to ensure that residents are protected by the latest fire detection technology, and installing a new sprinkler system to protect each home, which goes above and beyond the basic regulations for fire safety.
Did the alarm go off before people were alerted by other residents?
Yes, it did, but it is a zoned alarm which means the sounders will only activate in the areas that are affected. This means that some people may have become aware of the fire from other residents before the alarm sounded in their area.

This is in line with the ‘stay-put’ policy for the building, which means that residents are not required to evacuate until the alarm sounds in their area or they are advised to do so by the fire service. This helps to avoid the risk of mass evacuation causing an overcrowded stairwell in an emergency situation.

On this occasion, Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue carried out a full evacuation of the building as a precaution, with most residents being able to return to their homes on the same day once the appropriate safety inspections had been carried out.
Why are there no sounders in the communal areas?
There are no sounders in communal areas as this would be at odds with the ‘stay-put’ policy we have in place. Sounders in communal areas can also create an increased number of false alarms, which can lead to residents ignoring genuine warnings.
Why are there no sprinklers in the communal areas and on the stairs?
Sprinklers in these areas would cause a slip hazard and would prevent people from evacuating safely. The sprinkler system we installed is fully compliant and operational – it is an additional safety measure, over and above the requirements of Building Regulations, which we installed in consultation with residents.
How are the residents being supported?
Everyone who has had to temporarily vacate their home has been spoken to by teams from both Watford Community Housing and Watford Borough Council – we are working closely with them to ensure that their needs are met.

We understand that all other residents of Abbey View and Munden View may have individual concerns and appointments are available for you to speak to our housing officers. If you would like to book an appointment you can speak to our Customer Services team.
Will there be any longer-term support available?
We have been working in partnership with Herts Mind, who were at the community centre on the day of the event to help and support those impacted, and direct dial contacts for Herts Mind have been provided to all households.

In the longer term, we will be working with agencies to provide art therapy sessions that people can access at the community centre over the summer months, and activities geared toward local children. If you have any ideas for ways we could help support you, your children or your community then please do get in touch.
Will there be a meeting about this incident?
We are working with the Meriden Residents’ Association and other partners to host two sessions on 1st August at the Meriden Community Centre. These are provisionally booked for 9.30am until 11.30am and 7.00pm until 9.00pm. These will give you the opportunity to ask any questions and to speak to local partners, such as Herts Mind, about the support they can offer.

We will provide further information on these sessions in due course.
How long will it take for the building to return to normal?
Only a short time has passed since the incident and, while a lot has been done to ensure that the safety systems remain up and running, more work is required to repair the buildings and return them to their former state. We will keep you updated via our notice boards and will provide more information at the meetings scheduled for 1st August.

We carried out an initial clean immediately after the incident. Following an inspection on Wednesday 20th July, our contractor returned to site to carry out additional cleaning throughout the block, to include floors, window ledges and bannisters. We anticipate that this will be completed by Saturday 23 July.

We have also instructed our contractor to carry out an additional deep clean of the whole block in early August.

We are continuing to monitor cleanliness throughout the block and are working to ensure that all areas meet the standards we expect.
What is being done to reduce fly-tipping?
We are working with Watford Borough Council and the police, and using CCTV to identify anyone who fly-tips items. Our teams will be working with residents to verify the identity of the people involved in this incident and we will seek to prosecute and take enforcement action.
If there is a fire, am I covered if my items get damaged?
If you are worried about protecting the items in your home you should look to take out home contents insurance, if you have not already done so.

We have a partnership with Allianz Insurance and offer a contents insurance scheme for all residents. Details of this can be found here. Alternatively, you can request an application form from us by calling 0800 218 2247.
I am looking to move home. How can you support me?
Some tenants have contacted us because they would like to move home. There is a high demand for family-sized accommodation in Watford and we do suggest that you continue bidding for properties and using Homeswapper in the first instance.

If you are looking to move to a smaller home, we can help you with the moving process and can also provide up to £2,200 to help you with moving costs – with £500 paid to you up front before your move takes place. If you are interested in finding out more, please contact our Customer Services team on 0800 218 2247.