By Yusuf Muhammad, co-founder and chief design officer at Plumis

Knowledge of how people live in their homes is crucial to help ensure housing providers choose the right approach to best protect those at greatest risk from fire-related injury or fatality.

This is why we’ve launched a new sector-wide initiative Fire Risk: It’s Not Just About the Building to highlight what housing providers can do to tackle changing fire safety challenges, whilst also future-proofing their homes to ensure residents are adequately protected.

Although recent failures in building and fire safety practices have rightly taken centre stage, fire safety is not just about the construction and fabric of a building.

To be effective, fire safety measures must consider the risk profile of occupants. Factors such as living alone, having medical conditions, illnesses or temporary lack of physical mobility, put people at greater risk of a fire-related injury or fatality than the general population.

Using data published by the BRE and our own experience in the fire safety sector, Plumis has created seven profiles of vulnerable individuals.

These profiles highlight where individuals are at risk of some of the most common causes of fire, such as electrical goods and smoking materials, as well as some individual circumstances that may prevent someone escaping easily in the event of a fire.

This is particularly important as the most common cause of death for fire-related fatalities, where the cause of death is known, is being overcome by gas or smoke.

To reduce fire risk for vulnerable individuals, social housing providers should use person-centred fire risk assessments (PCFRAs) to identify those at higher risk and gain an understanding of their risk profile, so appropriate measures can be put in place.

This was the case for Swindon Borough Council that recently worked with Plumis to increase protection at two of its pathway homes, where the residents living in both homes had mobility difficulties.

We believe that creating greater awareness of the varying needs of vulnerable residents works hand-in-hand with the other changes on the horizon, including the Fire Safety Act, the current Social Housing White Paper and Building Safety Bill.

We know many organisations already take a person-centred approach to fire prevention, so we hope the industry will use the profiles as a tool to further this work.

The aim of It’s Not Just About the Building is to increase knowledge and understanding of the causes of fire injuries and fatalities.

The more informed fire safety decisions are made, the greater the chance lives will be saved.