London Fire Brigade

Londoners making lethal fire decisions, warns London Fire Brigade

28 March 2014

More than three quarters of a million high rise households could be at risk of running into danger according to a new survey by London Fire Brigade.

The survey(1) found that more than half (60%) of all high rise residents – or around 760,000 high rise households –  don’t have a fire escape plan. Fifty per cent said they would get out of their flat even if the fire was somewhere else in the block, which can be the most dangerous thing to do when a fire is not affecting your home.

To tackle the confusion head on, the Brigade has launched a new campaign and website, www.knowtheplan.co.uk, to help ensure landlords and housing providers act on their fire safety responsibilities and people living flats and maisonettes in purpose built blocks have a clear understanding of what to do in a fire.

The campaign follows recommendations made by the Coroner following the inquest into the 2009 Lakanal fire, where six people lost their lives.(2)

James Cleverly, Chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority said:

”Landlords and housing providers with legal responsibilities for flats and maisonettes in purpose built blocks need to act right now to ensure their residents are safe and understand what to do in a fire.”

London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson added:

“Living in a flat is not more dangerous than living in a house, but it’s important to know that your fire plan should be different. Flats and maisonettes are built to give you some protection from fire – a minimum of 30 minutes and up to 60. Walls, floors and doors will hold back flames and smoke for a time. If there is a fire elsewhere in the building but not inside your home you're usually safer staying in your flat unless heat or smoke is affecting you.”

As part of its 12 month ‘Know the Plan’ campaign, the Brigade will be promoting its new dedicated website www.knowtheplan.co.uk to those responsible for high rise and other purpose built flats, as well as those living in them, so they can get the advice and guidance they need.

The campaign has three main aims:

1. For all types of landlord and housing provider in London to check their responsibilities under fire safety law and ensure they communicate fire safety information and guidance.
2. Encourage people living in flats, purpose built blocks and maisonettes to visit www.knowtheplan.co.uk and learn what to do in the event of a fire.
3. Ensure people living in purpose built flats and maisonettes know how to find fire safety information and who to find it from.

The results of a YouGov poll commissioned by the Brigade found that 24% of Londoners live in high rise or other purpose built blocks of flats/ maisonettes. Of these:

• Just 40% said they had an escape plan in the event of a fire in their flat/maisonette
• 50% said they would get out if there was a fire outside their flat but in their building while 44% said they would stay put and;
• Worryingly, while 71% said they would get out if there were a fire in their flat, 24% said they still would stay inside to call 999 rather than getting straight out.

Notes to editors:

• (1)The YouGov polling was carried out twice on the week commencing 4 November 2013 using a representative sample of 2,899 Londoners – 24% of which lived in purpose built block of flats giving a sample of 715 people for subsequent questions. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all London adults (aged 18+).
• The 2011 census recorded 3,387,255 homes in London of which 1,274,526 were flats/maisonettes in purpose built blocks. The YouGov survey commissioned by London Fire Brigade showed just 40% (509,810) of those households have an escape plan.
• (2)In 2009 six people died in a fire at the Lakanal House tower block in Camberwell, Southwark.
• (2)Following the inquest into the deaths of the six people, the Coroner made a number of recommendations to London Fire Brigade , Southwark Council and the Department for Communities and Local Government to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again. Five of the recommendations were made to the Brigade, four of which related to operational procedures and one to increasing public awareness of fire safety.