London Fire Brigade welcomes new proposals to increase the role of the fire service in the safety of buildings and urges the Government to take new recommendations on board quickly.
The recommendations are published as part of Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, commissioned following the Grenfell Tower fire.
The Brigade has raised concerns over the quality of construction of some buildings and has been calling for a review of building regulations for a number of years, with many of these recommendations included in the report.
Dan Daly, the Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, said:
“We have a once in generation opportunity to save lives by ensuring buildings are built and maintained with proper fire safety measures and so we are very pleased that Dame Judith has included so many of our recommendations.
“It took the Grenfell Tower tragedy for the fire safety of buildings to be taken seriously. Fundamental change is outlined and the Government must now take this forward without undue delay to ensure we have robust legislation and regulation in place to make buildings safer."
Addressing the issue of whether or not the report should have banned certain materials AC Daly continued:
“We understand why many would want materials such as ACM cladding banned but The Brigade agrees with Dame Judith Hackitt’s conclusion this would not help safety in the long term. It’s more important that the review concentrates on appropriate testing regimes for building materials, tighter regulations and ensuring that competent people are making decisions about building safety.
“Context is as important as raw materials when it comes to making buildings safe. For example, a type of material used in an low rise office block could be safe but dangerous if used in a high rise block.”
Among the key areas addressed are that fire and rescue services are included within a new Joint Competent Authority (JCA) which would have a key role during consultation in the design, construction and refurbishment of buildings. This body will also include the Local Authority Building Standards and the Health and Safety Executive. This step change would allow fire services to contribute fire safety expertise during all the key stages of a building’s life.
Dame Judith also recommends that fire and rescue services could lead on behalf of the JCA during the occupation and maintenance phases to ensure ongoing fire safety measure are correctly in place. Initially this JCA would look at existing and new buildings over 10 storeys that contain residential accommodation.
AC Daly continued: “However, the challenge for Government now will be to ensure there is proper funding to resource these new responsibilities and plug a nationwide engineering skills gap. This is a particular issue for London due to the sheer volume of high rises and building projects.
”We also hope that the use of sprinklers and other automatic fire suppression systems are given additional consideration as part of this work.”
The Brigade submitted its consultation response in October last year and has worked closely with Dame Judith to ensure that core areas of fire safety were covered.
Another area the Brigade wants the Government to take forward quickly is further work around the requirements for and the installation of sprinklers in residential high rise buildings.
The Brigade has previously called for all residential buildings 18 metres and above should have sprinklers fitted during the construction stage for new buildings or retrofitted fitted within existing buildings, subject to a risk based approach that should include consideration of the vulnerability of the residents.