Time of upload: 20/10/2017 – 09.00
The recent events at Grenfell Tower are tragic with wide-reaching impact and we have had a number of queries from customers, brokers, government and other parties.
We have created a multi-disciplinary group to collate and review customer queries and to provide specific technical support and guidance where appropriate.
We’re recommending a few steps that anyone with a property portfolio should consider. If the information below does not answer your queries, please speak to your usual Zurich representative.
1. In line with the relevant fire safety regulations* your fire risk assessments of buildings should be reviewed and updated as required, and should include the following:
- Ensure all findings are understood and outstanding actions are completed
- Undertake a review of fire evacuation and emergency plans to ensure they are still relevant
- Ensure all fire safety equipment and systems are maintained (we recommend the use of a suitable checklist)
- If you are a Zurich customer we also recommend you review any Risk Improvement Actions we have issued to you
(Please note: a fire risk assessment should be carried out by a competent person and it is strongly recommended that due consideration is given to their experience relative to the nature of risk, and any appropriate expertise and specialisms held. See question 8 for more information).
Specific guidance around fire risks assessment can be found in the Local Government Association guidance document – ‘Fire Safety in Purpose Built Blocks’ https://www.local.gov.uk/fire-safety-purpose-built-flats.
*Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005; Scotland – The Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006; Northern Ireland – The Fire Safety Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010.
2. It is vital that relevant findings or any changes are communicated to residents and other key stakeholders.
- Where actions are required of residents or there are changes in responsibilities, actions or procedures these must be communicated effectively and validation received that these are understood.
- Typically, your Local Authority, Fire Authority, Tenant Management Organisation or Landlord Managing Agent would be available to support these communications and should also be made aware of any findings.
3. Review your building, construction and materials
- In compliance with the government guidance we recommend that customers check existing buildings, including the testing of existing cladding systems.
- Compile a list of properties over 7 storeys for additional focus.
- We recommend that construction and refurbishment contracts are reviewed to establish the type of cladding systems used.
- Any concerns around either the cladding systems or fire risk assessments should be raised with your local Fire Service and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to formulate guidance on future steps.
- For all contracts and/or construction of this nature, please contact your usual Zurich representative who will be happy to provide support where required.
4. Consider the role that passive and active fire protection measures have in your building fire strategy
- Whilst it is too early to speculate upon any details of the fire at Grenfell Tower, we continue to support the review and possible installation of automatic sprinkler systems in buildings and feel that their installation should form part of the debate and the whole review process.
The Government has announced a Public Inquiry into the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, and we will be watching closely the findings and recommendations it brings. We will happily collaborate with the inquiry as well as any other pieces of work to safeguard people and the buildings in which they live and work. We will continue to update our guidance as the facts are established.
Q1: How did Zurich respond to customers impacted by this event?
We proactively identified any customers that were in close proximity or who may have had a relationship to this tragic event, and we have reached out to them to offer our support and guidance. This included:
- Appointment of specialist remediation companies to assist with debris and contamination clean up;
- Extending our cover free of charge on local buildings to house hundreds of individuals;
- Engagement with our panel of alternative accommodation providers to understand what their capacity was in case our customers needed to call upon them;
- The offer of media support and guidance; and
- Offered specially trained counsellor services via our medical management unit.
These were accepted to varying degrees, and we remained focused in flexing our responses according to the individual requirements of our customers.
Our major loss proposition centres on the appointment of a properly resourced and mobile team of experts from day one, early determination of policy coverage, clear communication strategies, site visibility, consideration of broader community implications and individuals’ needs, provision of early interim payments where appropriate and clearly signposted milestones and check points. It was not a requirement to deploy all of these elements, but our proposition was deployed and utilised where it could provide customer and community benefit.
Subsequent to the initial, customer focused activity we have formed a cross-functional working group to ensure a single focal point for all Grenfell related activities, both internal and external.
Q2: Zurich were ‘lucky’ in avoiding that loss weren’t you?
Our focus was on making sure our customers were well supported through a very difficult time. Our thoughts are with those affected by the events.
Q3: What involvement do you have in the Public Inquiry? What information have you been asked to provide?
As you’d expect we fully support the Public Inquiry and the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety (the Hackitt Inquiry). We will interact with both inquiries in an open and transparent manner, providing information where requested and sharing our expertise where applicable.
Q4: What can you tell me about the Public Inquiry – you must have some inside information?
As the Inquiry is ongoing we cannot comment any further.
Q5: What are the types of composite panelling and cladding? And which ones are more acceptable and which are not?
There are many different types of composite panels and cladding available. As such this is an incredibly difficult topic to provide advice on without the full specifics as to the proposed use of a particular product, including where and how it is to be used.
The combustibility of insulation material, even when not part of a panel system, should be considered carefully. Insulation, and insulation within composite materials, can generally be regarded under the following ascending categories; Combustible, Fire Retardant, Approved Fire Retardant, Fire Resistant and Incombustible. Our strong recommendation is that the materials used should be fire resistant or incombustible. Ultimately we require that they comply with the relevant Building Regulations and Standards applicable at the time of installation including the test criteria for their situation, location and the circumstance they are used in.
Any concerns around cladding systems and fire risk assessments should first be raised with the Fire Service and the DCLG. For any insurance related queries or further support required, please contact your usual Zurich representative who would be happy to provide support where required.
Q6: Are my properties and liabilities still covered, even if I have some buildings with similar cladding as Grenfell Tower and I do not make immediate changes?
We will not be withdrawing any existing cover for any customers. Zurich will continue to work with customers to use our expertise and risk insight to help you manage these exposures. We will also not be looking to change coverage for our existing customers at this point.
As both the Police investigation and Public Inquiry progress, we will need to review the position in the light of any updated guidance on fire safety. Safety of life must be our primary concern. Therefore, we do expect our customers to implement any government health and safety requirements. We would additionally encourage you to review our guidance above to customers and ensure that you meet all insurance requirements (including risk improvement actions and fair presentation of risk).
Q7: What information will you now need to provide me with cover? What will you do if you receive back information that causes you concern?
We will be requiring the usual information on location, the number of storeys, construction features of properties, particularly those that are non-standard, and risk management practices.
For non-standard risks a full cross-section specification of the building wall should ideally be provided. Whilst it is possible to identify potential issues with specific components of a wall system, a full view can only really be formed when all components are viewed as a whole (for example a cladded wall may behave differently if it either has or does not have a void within it).
Within significant property portfolios it is only feasible for Zurich to survey a proportion of the properties over the term of the policy where there is a particular reason to do so.
Each case is considered and underwritten on its individual merits. However, as a general rule, Zurich will continue to work with customers to use our expertise and risk insight to support you in managing these exposures.
Q8: We have identified a block being high risk and are looking to vacate the occupiers whilst remedial works are conducted. Can I claim for my loss of rent/increased costs/alternative accommodation costs?
The DCLG has stated that in the case of the most serious risk, consideration must be given to moving all residents out of the block until satisfactory remedial work has been done.
Sometimes extensions to BI cover are provided which afford some indemnity in this scenario. This does depend on the policy wording applicable to each customer. Please refer any questions you may have to your usual Zurich representative.
Even if your cover does not respond or is limited, we may still be able to help by using our network to support you, for example putting you in contact with our partners for alternative accommodation.
Local Authorities & Housing Organisations:
We have received a number of requests for clarification over the availability of policy cover to meet:
1) The costs of repair and/or replacement of external cladding to high rise properties and;
2) Associated costs of decampment and rehousing of those tenants / leaseholders affected.
The repair and replacement of external cladding on Properties and the associated costs of the decampment of tenants and leaseholders, are not insured events under the Policy (please refer to your policy documentation for full details of cover, to confirm if there are any additional or non standard covers available to you).
These works are understood to be part of upgrading or maintaining the premises.
In terms of other Financial Loss cover (either under your Public Liability Policy or where you have elected to purchase an Officials Indemnity policy or Financial Loss extension for third party financial loss) there is no cover afforded under your policy as the policy specifically excludes financial loss arising out of contract (i.e. your performance of the tenancy agreement or lease).
Should you require clarification on any specific circumstance, please contact your usual Zurich contact.
Q9: What is your position regarding the provision of cladding on an existing property?
We accept that there are many reasons to clad an existing building. We strongly recommend that refurbishment contracts are reviewed to establish the type of cladding systems being proposed, that the specifics of the property are considered and appropriate cladding system and components are used.
We strongly advise against the use of combustible materials in such systems including materials described as “Fire Retardant”. Our strong recommendation is that the materials used should be fire resistant or incombustible.
Any concerns around cladding systems and fire risk assessments should be raised with the Fire Service and the DCLG.
For all contracts and/or construction of this nature, please contact your usual Zurich representative who would be happy to provide support where required.
Q10: What information can you provide regarding sprinkler systems?
A number of organisations are considering the provision of sprinkler protection in High Rise Residential Accommodation. The following Q & A’s may offer some assistance to those considering the benefits of sprinkler protection:
Are all sprinkler systems the same?
No, some are designed primarily for Life Safety and some for Property Protection.
Presumably systems designed for life safety are the better quality installations?
Zurich endorses systems that are capable of protecting both people and property because life safety is paramount but the disruption to lives and communities can be unfathomable until it happens.
So for a Zurich compliant system, what should I know?
Zurich typically recognizes sprinkler systems designed, installed, and maintained in accordance with LPC Rules for Automatic Sprinkler Installations Incorporating BS EN 12845. While this standard does not specifically address the use of residential sprinklers, their use in residential occupancies is acceptable to Zurich for property insurance purposes and may be also acceptable to any authority having jurisdiction such as Building Control or the Fire Authority.
If I only want to install a system for life safety only, where can I go for help?
Zurich does not specify, assess or approve sprinkler systems which are designed in accordance with ‘BS 9251:2005 Sprinkler systems for residential and domestic occupancies’ as we are not the ‘authority having jurisdiction’ for systems of this type. However a number of agencies can assist, including the local Fire & Rescue Service, your appointed Building Control provider, The Fire Protection Association and the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association.
Q11: Who is qualified for undertaking Fire Risk Assessments?
A competent person for Fire Risk Assessments is someone who is listed on a register of fire risk assessors operated by a professional body or certification body, or, preferably, by a company that is certificated by a third party certification body, that is, itself, accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service to operate the certification scheme). Guidance on choosing a competent assessor can be found here: http://www.cfoa.org.uk/19532
It is strongly recommended that in selecting or appointing an assessor, due consideration is given to their experience relative to the nature of risk, and any appropriate expertise and specialisms held by the assessors.
For more information speak to your usual Zurich contact.