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The London Fire Commissioner will today call for the Government to take stronger action and undertake urgent research on ‘buildings that fail’ on fire safety which leaves ‘stay put’ advice no longer viable.
Since the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, London Fire Brigade has been leading the call for ministers to step up and implement key changes to building regulations to prevent future disasters.
This includes reviewing fire safety in residential buildings and calling for Government changes to building regulations, including a complete ban of combustible cladding and a change for sprinklers to be fitted in a much wider range of buildings such as purpose-built blocks of flats.
A fundamental issue since the tragedy at Grenfell has been the ‘stay put’ strategy used to inform the operational tactics of fire and rescue services across the UK in buildings where it is assumed the design and construction will stop fire spreading.
Buildings designed to have a ‘stay put’ strategy, which included Grenfell Tower, are not designed and built to facilitate mass emergency evacuation during a fire – many, for example, have a narrow staircase and no common alarm system. New research is now needed into what the public and firefighters should do when a building fails.
Since the fire, the Brigade has taken steps to provide guidance for its firefighters in the event of a building’s fire safety measures failing, which includes putting in place interim advice for incident commanders to assist an emergency evacuation or mass rescue operation in the event of rapid or abnormal fire spread. However, there are considerable challenges in any change from the stay put strategy, which is why the Brigade are calling for urgent research.
Details of how lessons are being learnt and all the actions taken by the Brigade are contained in a progress report published and discussed today by the London Assembly's Fire, Resilience and Emergency Planning committee.
London Fire Commissioner, Dany Cotton said:
"I want the public and especially the Grenfell Tower community to know everything we are doing to learn from that night and to prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again.
“It was the single largest residential building fire London Fire Brigade has ever fought and the building should have protected the people that lived there in the way it was supposed to.
“That is not what happened and we will always remember the 72 lives lost and the bereaved, the survivors and the impact it continues to have on the local community.
"Fire spread the entire height of Grenfell Tower in less than 30 minutes. Residents and firefighters were placed in impossible conditions we had never experienced before. That is why I am calling for the Government to reverse more than 20 years of neglect in relation to fire safety and to undertake urgent research on ‘buildings that fail’, which means ‘stay put’ advice is no longer viable in those buildings.
"Since 2014, there have been more than 5,000 high rise fires in London alone and in the vast majority of these incidents ‘stay put’ advice has been effective. It’s very important for people to know that.
“It is completely understandable that stay put advice has been questioned, but we are talking about buildings that fail, rather than advice that fails and there is no clear alternative, which is why this research is needed.”