The Chief Fire Officers Association has welcomed the recent rule 43 announcement of the coroners recommendations relating to the fire at Shirley Towers.

The blaze at the Southampton tower block in 2010 claimed the lives of Hampshire firefighters Jim Shears & Alan Bannon, and CFOA has to pledged to ensure that "the lessons and improvements from Shirley Towers are shared with all Fire and Rescue services across the UK".

In his coroner's report, released six months after the conclusion of the inquest Keith Wiseman said all high-rise buildings of more than 30m (98ft) should be retro-fitted with sprinklers and that crews should be equipped with wire cutters to prevent them being trapped by fallen cables.

He added: "All fire and rescue services should consider the implementation of measures to reduce the risks associated with fallen cables. In particular consideration should be given to providing insulated wire cutters, or other means of severing cables, to all breathing apparatus teams.

"Social housing providers should be encouraged to consider the retro-fitting of sprinklers in all existing high-rise buildings in excess of 30m in height, particularly those identified by fire and rescue services as having complex designs that make fire-fighting more hazardous and/or difficult."

In addition he recommended that thermal imaging cameras be used in smoky conditions, and that "methodical search patterns are undertaken... area by area, room by room or floor by floor".

An inquest in July into the two deaths returned a verdict of death by misadventure.

In response to the recommendations, CFOA released the following statement:

"As the professional voice of the UK Fire and Rescue service we recognise the importance of rule 43 letters as a source of information to inform our new Operational Guidance set up but the recommendations in this letter do need to be considered alongside similar learning and recommendations.

"We fully support the recommendations made by the coroner in this recent letter that action should be taken to prevent the recurrence of similar fatalities. These recommendations call for action not only from the Fire and Rescue Service, but importantly from the government who have the authority to implement suggested actions, which aligns with the CFOA lobbying priorities.

"The coroner highlighted the risks associated with falling cables. CFOA has been working alongside the Electrical Safety Council to review a variety of options to improve the methods used to support electric cables; both pre and post build in types of building. We welcome the coroner’s recommendations to amend Building Regulations to ensure that all cables are supported by fire-resistant cable supports.

"CFOA also welcome the recommendation to social housing providers to retrofit sprinklers in all existing high rise buildings. Sprinklers are the most effective way to ensure that fires are suppressed or even extinguished before the fire service arrive, they save lives and reduce injuries, protect fire fighters who attend incidents and reduce the amount of damage to both property and environment. As fire service budgets are being cut back significantly, preventative measures such as sprinklers are more important than ever, particularly in high rise buildings. Recent research in conjunction with the Building Research Establishment (BRE), published in March 2012 states that residential sprinklers as an additional safety measure are cost effective for all residential care homes, most blocks of purpose built flats and traditional bedsit type HMO’s.

"CFOA would go further than the coroner’s recommendations under the rule 43 and require the installation of residential sprinklers in all new build accommodation, irrespective of height as well as a retrofitting programme to all accommodation housing vulnerable people. We urge ministers to review current policy relating to fire risk within high rise buildings to prevent further tragedies being repeated."

Posted 08/02/2013 by