Fire safety in flats and tower blocks

Your flat has been designed with safety in mind. The walls, certain doors and the floors are designed to withstand fire and slow the spread of smoke. We need your help to maintain fire safety in and around your block of flats.

Stay Put Policy

We have a Stay Put Policy, which means tenants do not need to evacuate their flat (unless there is a fire in the flat). Each flat is a safe zone since we completed fire stopping work, which closed gaps in walls, floors and ceilings and between flats and communal areas, through which smoke could have spread into people’s homes. The Stay Put Policy applies to all tenants and visitors.

We ask that you:

  • keep communal areas clear of any obstacles, such as plants, bikes, pushchairs and mobility scooters, so people can leave buildings safely in the event of a fire
  • place bags of rubbish down the chutes or in outside bins
  • report any fly-tipping around flats
  • maintain your smoke alarms and test them weekly – never remove them or cover them up


  • prop or wedge open doors in communal areas – closed doors will slow the spread of fire and smoke
  • leave mopeds, motorcycles or other machinery that has a petrol tank in your flat or communal area
  • leave bags of rubbish by the chutes, in communal areas, outside bin rooms or outside your flat
  • remove internal doors or their closers inside your flat

How to make your flat a safe home

  • fit smoke alarms on each level in your home
  • if you have smoke alarms already, please test on a regular basis by pushing the button
  • make a fire action plan so everyone in your home knows how to escape
  • keep exits from your home clear
  • make sure everyone can easily find door and window keys
  • take extra care in the kitchen and never leave young children alone in there
  • consider buying a deep-fat fryer which is controlled by a thermostat
  • never leave lit candles in rooms that nobody is in or where children are on their own. Candles should be in secure holders on a surface that doesn’t burn and away from flammable materials
  • make sure cigarettes are stubbed out properly, disposed of carefully and never smoke in bed
  • get into the habit of closing all doors at night
  • don’t overload electrical sockets – one plug for one socket
  • keep matches and lighters where children can’t see or reach them
  • take special care when you are tired or have been drinking
  • don’t leave the TV on standby – always turn it off and unplug

What to do in the event of a fire in your flat

  • alert everyone in the flat and leave, closing doors and windows behind you
  • if it is safe to do so, make your neighbours aware of the fire
  • don’t use the lifts to exit the building – only use the stairs
  • when you are out of the building and can find a phone, call 999
  • do not re-enter the building

Your flat has been designed with safety in mind. You have a stay put policy in place, so you do not need to leave your flat, however it is your choice if you wish to leave. Only do this if it is safe to do so, leave your flat and close the door and windows behind you. If fire breaks out in another flat or communal area:

  • don’t use the lifts to exit the building – only use the stairs
  • if you cannot get out safely, stay in your flat
  • stay by the window where you can be seen
  • place damp towels or bedding around any door frames to prevent smoke entering the room
  • if your block has a Stay Put policy, then you are safe to stay inside your flat and alert the fire service
  • Phone 999 and advise them where you live, your flat number, the floor you live on and whether or not you are still in the building.

Plan ahead now for a fire. Think how you and everyone in your flat will escape. 

Fire safety in communal areas

We need your help to keep landings and stairwells free of any obstructions, tripping or fire hazards. This includes, but is not limited to, chairs, tables, loose carpets, net curtains, curtains and plastic plant pots. If any of these items are found in communal areas, we will ask residents to remove them and if we have to remove them, you may be charged for the service.

We will allow small door mats – no larger than 60cm x 45cm with a non-slip back and preferably with a bound or sealed edge.

Non-combustible plants/plant pots that are placed safely away from walkways so that they are not a hazard if a fire breaks out are acceptable.

Mobility scooters should be kept inside your home, we can only allow you to keep mobility scooters outside your home in exceptional circumstances and once we have done a full fire risk assessment.

Bicycles must not be stored in communal areas as they could seriously hamper evacuation. Residents should find alternative storage locations.

Questions that you might have about living in your flat or block

How many tower blocks do you manage & are they safe?

Sheffield has 24 tower blocks that are managed by the Council’s Housing and Neighbourhood Service. They are located across the city. There are 1,345 flats - 945 are one-beds and the rest are two-bedroomed. 

The 4 tallest blocks have 15 floors and most blocks in Sheffield are 12 floors high. Grenfell Tower, where the fire tragedy took place, was 24 floors high. Twenty blocks have two communal fire escape staircases and 4 have one. 

Safety is our main consideration in the design, build and updating of tower blocks. Since the 1990s, significant investment has taken place to all blocks in Sheffield, and millions of pounds have been spent on measures that minimise fire risk. 

Regular Fire Risk Assessments take place and each tower block is visited daily to check it is safe. We tackle any issues with tenants, particularly around the removal of waste.  

All tower blocks are now externally clad with fire break measures. These are fitted to floors and party walls, behind the external cladding; by fire break measures we mean a strip of dense fire resistant material that forms a box behind the cladding, in addition to the mineral wool insulation. Mineral wool has both thermal insulation and fire resistance properties and sits across the whole wall; this creates a fire-proof box around each flat to the external structure to prevent the spread of fire to other flats.

Our investigations to date have shown we have aluminium rain screen cladding on all our blocks apart from Hanover. We are taking samples of the metal cladding on 21 blocks to check it’s safe and we will publish the results once the test results are available.

What work has taken place to tower blocks to make them safe?

Since the early 1990's significant investment has taken place to all 24 blocks in terms of improving the blocks and spending millions putting in place measures that minimise the spread and risk of fires. 

The blocks were originally built with dry risers which allow the fire service to connect their hoses at different floors and for these to be charged with water on any floor.

Measures to contain fires in flats have been introduced, these include:  

  • improvements to the dry risers to stop fire spreading between properties and floors 
  • hard wired smoke alarms which can’t be removed
  • fitting fire seals around external doors in flats  
  • fitting fire doors in flats 
  • dry risers on the blocks

What is the cladding made of and will it set on fire?

All of our blocks have been externally clad but we have not used the same rain screen cladding product as at Grenfell. 21 of the blocks have a metal, aluminium rain screen, cladding system. It looks different on different estates.

All tower blocks are now externally clad with fire break measures. These are fitted to floors and party walls, behind the external cladding; by fire break measures we mean a strip of dense fire resistant material that forms a box behind the cladding, in addition to the mineral wool insulation. Mineral wool has both thermal insulation and fire resistance properties and sits across the whole wall. This creates a fire-proof box around each flat to the external structure to prevent the spread of fire to other flats.

The 3 tower blocks in Stannington are brickwork-clad and designed to operate in the same way as the other 21 but in these cases have a separate metal fire barrier installed.

The design of the buildings and materials used have been done to British Standards and approved by the regulatory authorities Building Control and the fire service. 

As an extra reassurance we are having all metal cladding materials on our tower blocks sampled and tested. We will let you know the results of the tests when they are complete.

There is lots of waste left on landings. Is this a fire risk?

Yes. Any waste left on landings or in communal areas is at risk of being set on fire.  

We have completed fire prevention work to make sure any fires can be contained. You can help using the waste chutes or taking rubbish to an outside bin. Please don’t leave rubbish in communal areas. 

To report any issues please contact your local Housing Office or neighbourhood officer, or call us in confidence on 0114 293 0000.

How does the council make sure blocks are safe?

  • all tower blocks have an annual fire risk assessment, externally managed by professionally qualified Health and Safety officers in the Council
  • our teams carry out formal fire safety checks usually every 6 weeks on tower blocks
  • our teams visit blocks daily to check they are clear of rubbish and nothing is obstructing the safe means of escape
  • we have Neighbourhood Officers visiting tenants and they can refer issues and problems if they need to
  • we know there are issues with waste in some blocks but we have estate officers informing tenants to move it on a daily basis
  • all blocks have hard-wired smoke alarms (wired directly to the mains supply) in individual flats. Some blocks have CCTV as well
  • dry risers and emergency lighting systems are routinely serviced. A dry riser is normally an empty pipe that can be externally connected to a pressurised water source by firefighters. South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service carry out random unannounced inspections of all our blocks

Do I need to be rehoused?

No. There are no reasons why anyone should need to be rehoused – we will always make sure that our tower block residents are safe. 

If you are worried about living in a flat then you can contact your Neighbourhood Officer or local housing office. 

What advice has been provided by South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service?

Regular meetings with South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service are taking place and in light of the tragedy, they will be undertaking thorough checks from 20 June 2017. We will make any changes they recommend. 

On Hanover, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service have advised that despite the failed single cladding material the block is safe to occupy as a result of the other investment we have made in fire precaution work, eg fire doors and fire stopping.   

When will the investigation report back from the Grenfell tower block tragedy?

We don’t know when the report will be published but when this is announced we will let you know. We will be checking to see if there is any learning or recommendations for improving fire safety in our tower blocks.

How will I be kept updated?

We are:

  • writing to all tenants and leaseholders who live in a tower block to give information and invite them to a meeting
  • holding local meetings with you
  • making sure our teams are out and about on estates and can answer your questions 
  • reminding tenants and residents about fire safety on our website
  • keeping Tenant and Resident Associations up to date 
  • you can sign up for updates on this page

If you are worried you can contact your local housing office or Neighbourhood officer or call us.

Why does Sheffield have a Stay Put policy and is this going to be reviewed?

We operate a 'Stay Put' policy for tenants so that if a fire occurs you remain in your home. We believe this is the safest way to respond to a fire, if one occurs and is in line with national guidance.  

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service support this approach for our tower blocks and are reaffirming this to residents at public meetings. 

If anything comes out of the Grenfell Tower block fire investigation that recommends we review this policy we will, working with tenants and South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service. It is really important that tenants follow the current policy. 

We are placing posters reminding everyone of the Stay Put policy in all blocks.

Is the Council going to install sprinklers to improve safety?

We will be installing sprinklers in 24 tower blocks in Sheffield. 

We have already spent millions on fire safety in our council homes and improvement works have been carried out over the last 5 years. We have always intended to review our policy on sprinklers later this year, at the end of that 5 year programme, but we are bringing the commitment forward to provide extra reassurance to residents.

We will start consulting with you on a block by block basis later this year.

We have one sheltered tower block, Handbank at Callow, Gleadless Valley that has sprinklers installed. This work was part-funded from working in close partnership with the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association (BAFSA) and South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service (SYFRS), as a retro fitting pilot. This is serviced annually and was last done in October 2016. 

We do have a number of low rise non-traditional property types in the city that have sprinklers to ensure we have a safe means of dealing with fire and escape because of their design and construction.

How safe in the city are other tower blocks not managed by the Council?

Each organisation is responsible for making sure that their tower blocks are safe and follow national guidance. 

We have shared our communications with other landlords and providing any support requested. Our regulation obligations will only apply if they fail to follow any changes to Health and Safety Act or Fire Safety regulations and policy. 

Is my flat door safe?

The entrance door to your flat must be able to resist fire and smoke for up to 30 minutes. To do so, it is fitted with a self-closing mechanism. It is important you keep the door closed at all times and never prop it open.

This door must also have the following features:

a certified fire door. This will usually have a label or markings on the top edge and be labelled as an FD30 or FD30s

  • it should be in good condition with no holes or damage
  • it should be a good fit in the frame – no large gaps but not so tight it sticks
  • it should open freely, but close tight on its own
  • it should not have a cat flap (or any other holes or openings which could allow fire or smoke to pass through)
  • the letter box must have tight fitting flap seals and an inner liner
  • if it has a glass panel, it should be safety glass (you should either see a wire grid pattern in the glass or there will be a small logo in one corner). The glass must not be cracked or damaged.
  • a new door should have seals built into the edge of the door or within the door frame itself
  • these doors can either be wooden or ‘composite’ but not be entirely made of  uPVC. Composite doors come with a new PVCu frame, built-in seals and have a fire resistance solid core
  • old original fit doors can still comply and provide 30 minutes' fire and smoke resistance. Fitted with ‘smoke seals’ that are usually a thin metal and rubber strip fitted around the frame, they seal against the edge of the door. These may not be marked or labled along the top edge.

If you believe your door does not meet these criteria then please report it to the repairs team on 0114  273 5555.

Contact Customer Services

1 Union Street
Howden House
S1 2SH

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