Keeping You Safe At Home

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1. Avoiding Fires In Your Home | 2. Fire Safety In Communal Areas | 3. Gas safety 

4. Damp and Condensation | 5. Keeping Warm | 6. How To Beat Bogus Callers

7. Home Security | 8. Asbestos | 9. Legionnaires' Disease | 10. Electrical Safety  


 Avoiding fires in your home

The last thing you want is a fire in your home. The guidelines below may help you avoid unnecessary and dangerous incidents.

● Ensure your smoke alarms are kept in a good condition and have a working battery throughout the year by testing them regularly;

● Take extra care if you need to leave the kitchen whilst cooking. Take pans off the heat or turn them down to avoid risk;

● Keep tea towels and cloths away from the cooker and hob;

● Don't microwave sponges, dishcloths or anything metallic - such as cutlery or tin. Doing so could cause a fire;

● Keep your oven, hob and grill clean. A build up of fat and grease can easily catch fire;

● Consider swapping your chip pan for an electric deep fat fryer. Thermostatically controlled electrical deep fat fryers that plug into the wall are much safer to use;

● Never fill a chip pan more than one-third full of oil. If the oil starts to smoke, it is too hot. Turn off the heat and leave it to cool down;

● Keep electrical leads, tea towels and cloths away from your cooker;

● Check your toaster is clean and away from curtains and kitchen rolls;

● Make sure candles are secured in a proper holder, away from children or pets and away from materials that may catch fire - like curtains;

● Put candles out when you leave the room, and make sure they are put out completely at night;

● Check that any new electrical appliances you buy are B.E.A.B. approved as a guarantee of safe design. These initials stand for "British Electrical Approvals Board" and appear on a label or swing ticket. You should have second-hand electrical goods checked by an expert;

● Never run wires under a carpet or rug. Not only can they cause fires, they are easy to trip over;

● Have your electric blanket serviced regularly by the makers. Please persuade your elderly relatives and friends to do the same, as electric blankets can cause tragedies if they are not checked. Switch it off when you go to bed unless you have an all-night blanket;

● Never place anything on or against night storage or any other heaters. You should never dry or air laundry on any appliance which has not been designed for that purpose, this includes night storage heaters;

● Never overload electrical points and avoid using multi-way adaptors;

● Switch off and unplug your television before you go to bed;

● Keep the entrance hall to your home, staircase and any communal landings free from all obstructions and combustible material that may catch fire:

● Keep doors closed when not in use, especially at night;

● Never store flammable materials, especially liquids, on the premises; and

● Buy flame-resistant furnishings and fabrics when you can, especially for your family's night clothes.

If you should discover a fire:

● Don’t try and put the fire out;

● Dial 999 and ask for the Fire Brigade, giving your exact address. If you don't have a telephone of your own, ask a neighbour;

● Get your family out of the property as soon as possible;

● If possible, close all doors and windows to prevent the fire spreading;

● Warn your neighbours; and

● Remove your vehicle if it is obstructing emergency vehicles

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service have a list of downloadable fire safety resources on their website here.


Fire safety in communal areas

Fire is one of the biggest risks people face in the home and it can cause serious damage to lives and property. This section contains important information about fire safety in communal areas and how you can protect yourself and your family.

As your landlord, we have a duty to ensure your building and communal areas within it meet fire safety regulations.

We carry out fire risk assessments (FRAs) in all of our blocks of flats once every two years to reduce the chances of a fire starting or spreading, if one starts. We also check communal areas regularly to ensure they remain clean and free of obstructions. If we come across any damage or a fault we will fix it to ensure you remain safe.

Contact us if you would like a copy of the FRA for your block.

We ask that you take care when using shared areas and do not obstruct or interfere with anything that is provided.

Combustible materials such as mobility scooters, furniture and dried flowers can contribute to a fire and will burn for a long time. Items such as pushchairs and bikes can also cause an obstruction to escape routes if you or someone else in your building needs to get out in the event of a fire. Even small, seemingly harmless items such as door mats or plant pots can form an obstruction if it is dark and smoky. In a fire, people may stay close to walls to help guide them if they cannot see through thick smoke.

For your safety, we have introduced a Zero Tolerance Policy towards items in communal areas such as shared stairways, lifts, landings and hallways.

Please remember:

  • Keep all communal areas clear of obstructions such as plant pots, prams, mobility scooters and bikes.
  • Do not wedge open fire doors.
  • Please place rubbish in the bins provided.
  • Report any damage to doors, lights and smoke detectors promptly.

If personal items are found in a communal area, you will be asked to remove them. If you fail to do so, we will remove and dispose of the items. Thank you for your co-operation.


Gas safety

Poorly maintained appliances can give off carbon monoxide – a colourless, odourless, poisonous gas that can kill. This section contains important information about gas in your home, how it can be handled safely and how you can protect yourself and your family.

Before you moved in, we carried out a full gas safety check to ensure all of the gas appliances were in safe working order.

By law, we must carry out a service and safety check of all gas appliances in your home every year, such as your boiler and fire.

Our qualified engineers will check, clean and test your appliances to ensure they are safe to use. They will also give you a copy of the gas safety certificate.

As part of your tenancy agreement, you must let our engineers into your home to carry out these checks. If you do not do this, we may have to take legal action against you.

For your own safety, make sure any gas appliances you install are fitted by a Gas Safe registered contractor. You are responsible for the maintenance and servicing of any gas appliances you install. However, if we find that any of your appliances are dangerous, we will disconnect them.

If you are worried about the safety of a gas appliance in your home, turn it off and do not touch it until it has been checked by a qualified gas engineer. Call us to arrange this,

If you smell gas:

  • Please do not smoke or light any flames.
  • Please do not turn any switches on or off.
  • Open all doors and windows.
  • Shut off the gas supply at the meter.
  • Put out all sources of ignition or naked flame.
  • Leave the building and call National Grid’s gas emergency freephone number on 0800 111 999 in the first instance, then please contact us. Please do not use a telephone until you are safely away from the property.                      

Stay safe – be in for your gas safety check.


Preventing Damp and Condensation In Your Home

Information for tenants

There are four main types of damp that can affect your home. Condensation is probably the biggest cause of damp. This section explains what causes damp, condensation and mould growth in properties and how to prevent it occurring in your home.

Types of damp

Rising damp

Rising damp is caused by water rising from the ground. Most properties are protected from rising damp due to a horizontal layer of waterproof material (a Damp Proof Course) in the walls of a building just above ground level. A defective or absent Damp Proof Course allows water to pass through the brickwork and rise through the ground floor of a property. Rising damp will normally only affect a property up to a maximum of 60cm above ground level and usually leaves a ‘tide mark’ and white salts low down on the wall.  If left untreated, it may cause wall plaster to disintegrate and wallpaper to lift in the affected area. Black mould will rarely be seen in areas of rising damp as the ground salts in the water prevent its growth.

Penetrating damp

Penetrating damp is usually only found on external walls or on ceilings. It is caused by a structural defect outside the home, such as cracked rendering, missing pointing to the brickwork, or missing roof tiles, that allows water into the property. This kind of damp is particularly noticeable following rainfall and looks and feels damp to the touch. Black mould is rarely seen on areas of penetrating damp as the affected area is usually too wet to encourage the growth of black mould.

Leaks

Leaks from pipes can affect your property both externally and internally. Affected areas look and feel damp to the touch whatever the weather conditions outside. Black mould will rarely be seen on this type of damp because the affected area is usually too wet and chlorinated to attract the growth of black mould.

Condensation

Damp areas and black mould caused by condensation are the most common cause of damp in the home. Condensation is caused by water vapour or moisture from inside the property coming into contact with a colder surface, such as a window or exterior wall. The moisture soaks into absorbent surfaces, such as wallpaper, paintwork and plaster, creating damp areas that attract black surface mould. This kind of damp can usually be found in the corners of rooms, on north facing walls, and on or near windows. It is also found in areas of little air circulation, such as behind furniture placed against external walls.

Dealing with condensation and mould growth

Condensation is very common. Cooking, drying clothes indoors, running taps/showers and breathing all produce water vapour that collects on colder surfaces such as external walls, windows, ceilings or mirrors. How warm and well ventilated you keep your home can also significantly contribute to the amount of condensation in your home.

Small amounts of condensation can be found in most homes, but if it is not dealt with, mould growth may occur and, in severe cases, this can make some health conditions worse. It can also damage your furniture, clothes or decorations. The first signs of condensation becoming a problem include damp areas that take a long time to dry, black mould, and excessive moisture collecting on cold areas such as windows. Unsurprisingly, black spot mould can frequently appear in kitchens, bathrooms and the corners of external walls where warm and cold air meet.

There are a number of things you can do if you think you have condensation:

  • Increasing the room temperature helps reduce condensation, so try to keep your home as warm as you can afford to. 
  • It is best to have the heating on for longer periods of time at a lower temperature. Try adjusting the central heating thermostat and timeclock if you have one.
  • If condensation does form on the windows and surfaces, wipe it off.
  • Improve ventilation by opening windows, particularly when cooking, bathing, showering or drying clothes. It is also a good idea to ‘air’ bedrooms first thing in the morning to let moisture escape.
  • Do not dry clothes indoors if possible. If you have to, dry them in the bathroom or kitchen, open the window, and allow air to circulate. Do not put clothes on radiators.
  • Try not to put furniture in front of radiators or against external walls. If you must, ensure that there is adequate room for the air to circulate. Do not block air vents.
  • Keep lids on pots and pans and keep the kitchen door closed and open the windows when cooking. Do not let kettles and pans boil longer than necessary.
  • If you have an extractor fan fitted, make sure that you use it when cooking or using the bathroom.
  • If you have a Tumble Dryer, ensure that it has an external vent or hose that can be put through an open window.

If mould does occur, it can be cleaned off surfaces using a fungicidal solution. Do not brush mould as it can release spores into the air. Mould penetrates wallpaper and plaster so you will need to treat these areas otherwise the mould will return. If you need to redecorate an affected area, use specialist damp/mould inhibiting paint that contains a fungicide.

If you suspect rising damp, penetrative damp or damp due to defective plumbing, please let us know straight away.


Keeping warm

During winter, it's essential to keep warm. As the weather gets colder, we are all more likely to catch colds or flu; and if your body temperature drops then the risks of a heart attack, stroke or breathing difficulties increase.

This is especially true for older people, if you have a chronic disease or are vulnerable due to a physical disability

These simple steps will help to protect you:

At home

● Wear several thin layers of clothes rather than one thick layer – the warmth from your body will get trapped between the layers.

● Choose clothes made with wool, cotton or fleecy synthetic fibres that are designed to be light and warm.

● In the coldest weather, a good way to keep warm in bed is to wear bed socks and a nightcap or scarf around your head, as well as thermal underwear and a warm nightdress or pyjamas.

Outdoors

● Several thin layers of clothing under your coat will keep you warmer than one thick layer.

● Wear something on your head, otherwise you will get cold very quickly.

● Wear warm, dry, flat, non-slip shoes or boots, especially in frosty weather.

Keep Warm, Eat Well

● Food is fuel; it helps keep you warm. Aim to have at least one hot meal a day and have hot drinks regularly through the day.

● Have a hot drink before bedtime.

● Prepare a thermos flask of a hot drink to have by your bed in case you wake up in the night feeling cold.

Get your home ready for winterThere are a range of things that can be done to help keep your home warmer during the winter:

● Fit draught proofing to help seal gaps around windows and doors.

● Lay insulation in the loft to reduce heat loss.

● Ensure your hot water cylinder and pipes are lagged, including pipes in the loft.  Let us in to check your heating system is working properly and serviced every year.  Make sure you know how to set the heating controls.


How to beat bogus callers

Most people who call at your home will do so for genuine reasons, but someone could turn up unannounced with the intention of tricking their way into your home. These people are known as 'distraction burglars' or 'bogus callers', whose only aim is to get into homes to distract people and steal their money or valuables. You should always be aware when someone you don't know calls at your door.

Bogus callers may be smartly dressed and claim to be from the council, the police, health organisations or gas, water or electricity companies. They can be convincing and persuasive.

They use 'props' like an identity card or wear overalls with a company logo. If you are expecting the caller, remember to check their identification very carefully and if in doubt, don't let them in.

If you are not expecting a caller and are alone, you can ask them to call back when you have someone with you at a later time or date. If they are genuine, they will have no problem in doing this.


What to do when someone official calls at your door

If someone who looks official calls at your door, always do the following:

Stop: Before you answer, stop and think if you are expecting anyone. Check that your back door is closed and locked and take the key out.

Chain: Put the door bar or chain on. Look through the spy hole (if your door has one) or the window to see who it is. Always keep the bar or chain on while you are talking to the person on your doorstep.

Check: Ask for and carefully check their identity card, even if they have a prearranged appointment (all genuine callers will carry one).   Do they look like the person on the card? Close the door while you do this. If you are not expecting them and they have not shown you an identity card, do not let them in until you have checked and double-checked that the caller is genuine.

You can do this in three ways:

1. Look up the phone number in the phone book and check it against the card the caller has given you. Do not be tempted to just ring the number on the card as it may be a fake;

2. Phone directory enquiries. It will help to check whether the company is genuine; or

3. Look at a recent bill to check the phone number. You should also think about keeping a list of useful phone numbers, like gas, electricity and water services, in a handy place. Many now have free phone numbers to help you check the identity of their workers.

If, after these checks, you have any doubts about the caller, especially if they came unannounced, tell them to call back later when someone can be with you. You can also tell them to contact you by letter to arrange a more convenient time.

Only let them in when you are absolutely sure that they are genuine.


Report bogus callers

Bogus callers sometimes work in pairs or even teams. They are often well organised. One will distract the person while the other searches the house for money or other valuables. They can be men, women or children (or often a combination). 

Watch out for anyone who says they are in a hurry. Don't let them pressure or confuse you.

If you think a bogus caller has called at your door, report it to the police immediately – dial 999 and tell them what has happened. Try to give the police a description of the person. While they are on their way, tell a neighbour or Neighbourhood Watch representative just in case they try at other homes in the area. The earlier the police know that bogus callers are working in the area, the quicker they can investigate.


Home Security

Home security is the best way to reduce your chances of being burgled.  A lot of burglaries are opportunist; a burglar may see an open window or other easy point of entry and take their chance. If you follow these tips below then you will have gone some way to making life harder for a burglar.

Basic tips:

● When you are going out and are leaving your house empty, always lock all the doors and close all the windows - even if you are just going out for a short time;

● Window locks, especially on older windows, will help stop people getting in. A burglar is less likely to break in if they have to smash a window;

● If you have deadlocks on your front and back doors you should always use them. They make it harder for a thief to get out again if they have got in through a window. But don't leave the key near the door, or in an obvious place;

● Don't leave spare keys outside, or in a garage or shed, and put car keys or garage keys out of sight in the house;

● You can buy timers for lights and radios if you need to be away from home overnight. They will create the impression that someone is in and therefore a burglar would probably move on past your home; and

● Visible burglar alarms, good lighting, and carefully directed and limited security lighting can act as deterrents. But make sure that lights don't disturb your neighbours, and that alarms turn off after 20 minutes.

● Fitting a 'spy hole' allows you to see who is at the door.

● Having a door chain means you can open the door a little way to talk to them.

● Always ask to see identification and never let anyone into your home unless you are completely sure about who they are.


Asbestos

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was used in the past because it is strong, does not catch fire and has excellent insulation properties. Some people are worried about asbestos but the risk to your health is very low.

Almost all buildings built or changed between the 1950s and 1980s are likely to contain Asbestos. Products containing Asbestos can look the same as those that do not. Often the difference can only be found under a microscope by a specialist laboratory. It can be found in roof tiles, guttering and drain pipes, floor tiles, textured wall and ceiling coatings such as Artex and in boilers.

Asbestos was officially banned in 1999 because it was found to be a health risk.

Should I worry if I find Asbestos?

There is no need to panic. It is unlikely to be a danger to your health as long as it is undamaged and has not been disturbed. The health risk comes when fibres are released from damaged Asbestos. These fibres can be harmful when inhaled.

As long as materials containing Asbestos are left undisturbed, there is no risk to you.

Where might I come across asbestos in my home?

If there is asbestos in your home, you are most likely to find it in small amounts in textured coatings, such as Artex and textured paint. It may also be found in:

● Eaves, gutters and rainwater fall pipes

● Air bricks and floor tiles

● Boilers and cold water tanks

● Pipe lagging and duct linings

● Fire blankets and fire surrounds

● Garage and shed roofs

● Linings for walls, ceilings and doors

● Insulation panels in some storage heaters

● Bath panels

● Central heating flues

● Loose asbestos packing between floors and in partition wall

What are we doing about Asbestos?

We have been surveying the communal areas of our properties to check which are most likely to contain Asbestos and to look at the condition of any Asbestos materials we find. We also do checks on properties when they become empty and when we undertake major works.

This information is kept on a register, which helps us to monitor Asbestos and manage it safely.

If we find Asbestos in your home or in the communal areas where you live, we will let you know in writing. This will include telling you what precautions you should take and how we will monitor the situation.

Contact us if you would like a copy of the report or if you are worried about Asbestos in your home.

We do not usually remove Asbestos materials that are in good condition and which cannot be readily damaged. This is because removal can lead to higher levels of fibres in the air for some time. We will however remove or make safe any Asbestos that is found to be in poor condition or is damaged. This will be done by specialist contractors who are licensed with the Health and Safety Executive. All work is done under the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations.

Services for Leaseholders

If you are a Leaseholder you are responsible for making your own arrangements for the safe removal of any Asbestos that is found in your home. Do not attempt any DIY on materials you suspect contain Asbestos without speaking to a specialist first. We can offer information and advice, but you will have to organise and pay for the work to be done yourself.

We remain responsible for the building structure.

Remember that items you suspect contain Asbestos are best left in place if in good condition. If you do have Asbestos removed or sealed, please inform future owners so that this information can be passed on. Any Asbestos removed from your property must be disposed of by approved Asbestos removal contractors.

Some Dos and Don’ts

  • Do leave Asbestos materials where they are if they are in a good condition and cannot be damaged.
  • Don’t work with, damage or remove materials that you know, or think, might contain Asbestos.
  • Don’t rub down or sand a product that you know, or think, might contain Asbestos (for example, Artex).
  • Don’t drill through an Asbestos product – this will release fibres, which can cause lung damage if inhaled.
  • Don’t break off pieces from materials you know, or think, may contain Asbestos.

What is Legionnaires' Disease?

Legionnaires’ Disease is an illness similar to pneumonia caused by Legionella bacteria. Legionella bacteria are naturally occurring and may contaminate and grow in water systems, including domestic hot and cold water systems. They survive low temperatures and thrive at temperatures between 20 – 45°C when the conditions are right. The bacteria are killed by high temperatures at 60°C or above.

As your landlord, we have a duty to assess, prevent and control the risks of bacteria like Legionella. We do this by carrying out regular checks on water systems in sheltered housing schemes and in properties where there is a water tank. This includes taking temperature checks and flushing outlets. We also replace shower heads when properties become empty. 

Breeding Grounds Within The Home

Domestic hot and cold water systems can provide an environment where Legionella bacteria can grow.

We at Six Town Housing take our responsibilities to prevent Legionella being present in the hot or cold water systems seriously, however our residents also have an important part to play in taking these simple and practical precautions.

Legionnaires’ disease can be caused by the inhalation of small droplets of contaminated water containing Legionella bacteria. To minimise the risk of Legionnaires’ Disease residents of rented domestic accommodation should follow the below guidelines:

Most importantly, make sure that:

• Hot water in the system is kept hot;

• Cold water is kept cold;

• The water is kept circulated.

In particular, it is important that you:

• Tell us if the boiler or hot water tank are not working properly, particularly if the water is not coming out of the taps at a sufficiently high temperature. It should come out at a temperature of 50°C after it has run for a minimum of one minute. We will be able to arrange a visit to check your system and reduce any health and safety risks to you and your family. 

• Do not interfere with the settings on your boiler or hot water system. The hot water should be set so that the water is heated up to at least 60°C.

• Tell us if the cold water is still running warm after you have initially run off any water, which may have accumulated in the pipes. It should not be above 20°C.

• Tell us if there are problems, debris or discolouration in the water.

You should use your water system regularly to reduce the risk of Legionella. This includes running taps and flushing toilets as part of your day to day routine. It is also important that you regularly clean and descale showerheads to prevent the possible growth of Legionella. 

• If showers are used only occasionally you should flush them through by running them for at least 2 minutes once a week. Keep out of the way whilst this is being done as far as possible. Flush the toilet as well, ensuring the lid is down to prevent any spray. 

• Clean the shower head periodically, descale and disinfect it. This should be done at least every six months.

Please contact us if you have any concerns regarding Legionnaires’ disease.


Electricity

Faulty electrical supplies can cause injury or death. Damaged or faulty equipment can lead to electrical shocks, fires and explosions. This section contains important information about electrical safety and how you can protect yourself and your family. 

We are responsible for ensuring the safety of electricity in shared areas and the supply of electricity to the sockets in your home. 

To keep you safe, we carry out checks on the electrical supply in your home every 10 years and in communal areas every 5 years. We also check electrical appliances in our furnished tenancy properties every year. If we spot damaged or faulty systems we will carry out the necessary work. 

We will produce an Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) confirming the electricity in your home is safe, or if any major work is required. Contact us if you would like a copy of the report.  
Please do not carry out your own electrical repairs. If you think a socket in your property or the electrical supply in a communal area is damaged or faulty, tell us straight away. We will inspect the fault and make the necessary repair. 

Our Electricians will always ensure your electrical supply is safe before they leave. They may need to turn off some or all of the power if they cannot make it safe, but we will repair the supply as soon as we can. 

If you think an electrical item you own is damaged, then contact a qualified Electrician. 

There are a few things you can do to help you remain safe in your home: 

• Always use electrical items in line with the manufacturer’s guidelines.
• Do not overload sockets. Try to avoid using multi-socket adaptors and extensions. 
• Unplug your appliances once charged or when they are not in use.
• Get a qualified Electrician to test electrical items you own to help reduce the risk of fire and injury. 
• Don’t carry out DIY repairs on your electrical supply or appliances.

Stay safe – be in for your electricity safety check.