Brigade calls on government to reverse ‘20 years of neglect on fire safety’
London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton has called 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.
‘Stay Put’ Strategy
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 last month by the London Assembly’s Fire, Resilience and Emergency Planning committee.
- Internal learning and improvement – The Brigade established the dedicated Grenfell Tower Investigation and Review Team (GTIRT), led by Assistant Commissioner Andy Bell, which is undertaking comprehensive evaluation to identify further lessons to be learnt and to ensure they are implemented.
- Pre-Determined Attendance – The standard response to a high-rise fire was changed in 2017 to five fire engines and an aerial appliance following the fire. Where the Brigade receives multiple calls and cladding fire has been reported, this increases to ten fire engines and an aerial appliance.
- New firefighting equipment – New fire escape hoods are being used to protect residents from toxic smoke, drones to provide an aerial view of incidents, new extended height aerial appliances with turntable ladders of up to 64 metres, and Urban Search and Rescue WASP devices (Warning Alarm for Stability Protection) for structural monitoring of buildings.
- Training – Incident command training has been enhanced, with all officers requiring Level 1 and Level 2 incident command training by the end of 2019/20. There will also be incident command revalidation courses, which must be undertaken every two years.
- Control improvements – The Brigade has restructured the management of its 999 control room and Control staff have undertaken Fire Survival Guidance refresher training.
- Information gathering – The Brigade is overhauling the way it gathers, records and shares operational risk information across the Brigade. This work has included firefighters ensuring that electronic information plates are available for more than 2,300 high-rise premises and the Brigade’s fire safety inspecting officers conducting 1,238 visits to buildings with identified risks.
Preventing a Tragedy From Ever Happening Again
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.”
Assembly responds to London Fire Brigade report on Grenfell
Following London Fire Brigade’s publication of its report on the tragic Grenfell Tower fire, LFB Commissioner Dany Cotton appeared before the London Assembly to discuss the report’s findings
Commenting on the release of the report, Chair of the London Assembly Fire, Resilience and Emergency Planning Committee, Andrew Dismore AM said: “On the night of the Grenfell fire, firefighters responded with heroism to an incident beyond their experience and training. Today’s report reveals a chain of failures in the design and maintenance of Grenfell Tower, which created an impossible situation. The consequences for those who lived in the tower represent a tragedy London will never forget.
“With this report, LFB is showing the new training, equipment and policies it is already using to reflect what we now know about the hundreds of dangerous buildings in London. But no fire brigade could cope with the wild west of building regulations that has been allowed to develop.
“Fire regulation also needs to be updated to ensure that all buildings have the correct fire safety measures to protect Londoners. The government must play its part in supporting the London Fire Brigade and its partners with the resources it needs and stronger legislation to protect residents and the public by ensuring building owners fulfil their legal and moral duties.
“The Mayor, government, LFB and the rest of the fire safety industry need to work together to prevent anything like this from happening again. The London Assembly Fire, Resilience and Emergency Planning Committee is committed to investigating this issue until all its questions have been answered.”
Fire chiefs support London Fire Brigade’s call for stronger action on high-rises
The National Fire Chiefs Council supports London Fire Brigade’s call on government to take stronger action on high-rise buildings that fail on fire safety
The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) wants to see research undertaken into firefighting and emergency evacuation when buildings fail, with a focus on ‘stay put’ advice in high-rise buildings, which may not be viable in all circumstances.
In line with London Fire Brigade’s calls, NFCC has previously raised concerns that there has been no dedicated research into emergency evacuations of high-rise buildings, in the unusual circumstances that a building’s fire protection measures fail catastrophically as it did at Grenfell. This is especially relevant to buildings with a single staircase with the associated difficulties of evacuating an entire block.
The NFCC believes it would be irresponsible to consider building strategy changes without properly funded and comprehensive research as there are considerable challenges which must be factored in. NFCC Chair Roy Wilsher recently wrote to the government to request this and indications are that government is minded to support this.
According to the National Fire Chiefs Council, this research would need to consider:
- People’s individual circumstances, such as disabilities and mobility
- How to communicate the change in strategy to all residents
- The impact of evacuation on firefighters’ ability to tackle a fire and whether equipment, smoke and heat within the building could lead to injuries as people try to vacate the building
- How many firefighters or other first responders are needed to deal with a comprehensive high-rise evacuation. This is highly relevant as resourcing levels for fire and rescue services differ across the country.
NFCC Chair Roy Wilsher commented: “The comprehensive report from London Fire Brigade highlights a number of areas where NFCC would also like to see progress made. We have been working with government since the fire and, to date, made a number of recommendations.
“It is important to note that ‘stay put’ is a principle of building design – not a Fire Service policy. This type of design means that the structure of the flat is designed to give appropriate protection, usually allowing people to stay in their flats, unless the fire is inside their own home, or the heat or smoke from the fire is affecting them.
“Where buildings are built and maintained correctly, there are many benefits to designing buildings to resist the spread of fire. The Grenfell Tower fire and failure of the building safety regime has shown this type of fire extended beyond the previous experience of UK fire and rescue services.
“However, in days following the fire, it became apparent we were dealing with a broken building regulations system, which was further highlighted in Dame Judith’s Independent Review into Building Regulations and Fire Safety.
“NFCC has made several recommendations to government about how to strengthen both the regulatory environment for building and construction, as well as the underpinning design guidance. In addition I am a representative on the Expert Panel set up in the days following the fire and all Hackitt workstreams had NFCC representatives on them.
“I would like to highlight the comprehensive details of lessons learned in London Fire Brigade’s progress report, which includes firefighter equipment, training, control improvement and information gathering. We will continue to learn from this tragedy.
“Our National Operational Guidance in relation to fighting fires in tall buildings has already been updated and cascaded to fire services, with a number of important changes and recommendations, along with updated National Operation Learning.”
NFCC said it will continue to work with other experts and government to look at ways we can prevent a tragedy of this scale happening again.
Federation remains a passionate partner to progress building fire safety
Highlighting the danger that the risk of another tragic fire has not gone away despite two years of concerted effort, Fire Sector Federation Chairman Michael Harper has restated that all Federation members remain fully committed to seeking change in the building safety system
Fire Sector Federation Chairman Michael Harper said that he wants to place understanding and education at the heart of moving the country forward to become a fire safe place.
The Fire Sector Federation Board welcomed inclusion in the Queen’s Speech of the government’s intention to “…bring forward laws to implement new building safety standards.” However, whilst noting its members contribution to the Raising the Bar competency consultation conferences and participation in the technical review of Approved Document B of the Building Regulations, the Board has again restated concern at the rate of real progress.
Declaring it is willing and passionate about partnering with others on the work needed to change for the better the existing broken building fire safety system, Chairman Michael Harper said: “This summer’s devastating fires in a care home, residential building and hotel have shown again, if anyone needed reminding, that even the most modern buildings lack resilience to fire. Watching these recently constructed buildings disappear over a few hours is a stark reminder of the challenges we still face. It shows us all just how far we have to go to put right the fire safety system of this country.”
Worryingly for the Federation Board, a deep concern remains that a lack of understanding and consideration about fire risk continues to exist. The Board considers a better foundation is needed throughout the construction sector in fire safety education and that the culture and assurance systems now in place have to change if they are to offer public confidence that the products and people involved in protecting them from fire are really right for the job.
Concluding, Michael Harper added: “The passion of our whole fire industry to never let another tragedy like Grenfell Tower happen again remains as strong as ever and we reaffirm that we will work in partnership with all and any other party that shares that aim and commitment.”
Fire chiefs add support to SafeTea campaign
The National Fire Chiefs Council has given its support to the SafeTea campaign, an online resource to help caregivers prevent hot drink burns in small children and improve burn first aid
Hot drink scalds were the most common cause for under-fives attending A&E. Forty nine per cent (17,052) of child admissions to designated specialised burn services in the past five years involved scalds from hot food or drink. Fifty seven per cent of the admissions to designated specialised burn services among nought to two-year-olds in 2018 related to hot tea or coffee spillages.
These are shocking figures and so the National Fire Chiefs Council has added their support to the Safe Tea campaign. The campaign is an online resource to help caregivers prevent hot drink burns in small children and improve burn first aid.
New figures from the International Burn Injury Database (iBID) show there were 35,007 child admissions to designated specialised burn services in England and Wales in the past five years (2014-2018). Almost half – 49 per cent (17,052) of child admissions to specialised burn NHS services in the past five years involved children who had been scalded by hot food or liquid spillages. These admissions do not include the injuries treated as minor injuries by GPs or A&E.
The campaign aims to raise awareness to carers of young children on how they can take simple step to prevent scalds and burns and crucially what to do if an accident should happen.
Campaign effort helps drive down summer fires
A campaign that asked people to help reduce small fires during the summer has helped cut incidents by a quarter, the fire service has revealed
South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue launched its ‘Do Your Bit’ campaign on July 22 – to tie in with the six-week school holidays when there is normally a spike in incidents.
The service asked people to play their part in reducing secondary fires – which involve grass, rubbish, bins and other non-insurable property – during a traditionally busy summer period.
And according to fire service analysis, the 744 fires that crews attended during the Do Your Bit campaign period is a 26 per cent reduction compared to the average across the last three years.
“We’re prepared to deal with all eventualities but endless summer fires can be really frustrating for us. We want to be available to help people who are in real, life-threatening situations,” said T/Group Manager Matt Gillatt, head of the joint police and fire community safety team.
“Through this campaign we wanted to show the public that we were taking this issue seriously, but our core aim was to reduce these fires altogether. Clearly we’re really pleased with the result.
“This is another example of our commitment to making South Yorkshire safer and stronger and is credit to the commitment of our staff. A lot of work went into this incident reduction, with staff from various departments involved, and this work will continue.”
The campaign asked the public to help tackle arson, in particular, by taking specific action to shut down opportunities for people to start fires.
Deliberate secondary fires specifically dropped by 23 percent, going from a three year average of 802 to 620 this year.
Fire and security industry publishes cybersecurity guidelines
CoESS and Euralarm have published a joint brochure on cybersecurity. The first copy of the brochure, Cybersecurity – Threat or Opportunity? It’s up to you! was launched during the General Assembly of CoESS held last month in Rome
Cybersecurity breaks up the borders between product development, design, installation, operational continuity and alarm response. The guidelines highlight that when addressing cybersecurity, it is important to understand that all steps are inter-related in a security supply chain.
With CoESS and Euralarm as publishers of the brochure it covers the complete supply chain for the fire and security market – from manufacturers of products to private security companies and their customers. The brochure highlights in an understandable language the risks and responsibilities for each stakeholder in the chain and what companies need to do to mitigate these risks – both from a human and technological perspective. Many are not yet aware of the importance of these, sometimes simple, measures for the security and reputation of their business.
Cybersecurity is a top priority for businesses and governments. Many large, but also small enterprises already have structures and people in place to enhance resilience against the risks of cybersecurity. But with a rapidly increasing number of devices connected to a network the cybersecurity risks are getting bigger. Taking measures to enhance resilience against cyberthreats is therefore crucial – for business continuity of fire and security companies and their customers; security of data and assets; and both the industry’s and its clients’ reputation.
Although most of the products offer tools to provide a level of protection and many companies have internal cybersecurity rules and procedures in place, the importance of the human factor in achieving and maintaining cybersecurity is often forgotten. With the joint brochure, CoESS and Euralarm want to create awareness that, with the right security measures, cyberthreats can be mitigated.
The brochure looks at the whole supply chain and gives recommendations on the role of companies, their employees and end-users in carrying out security measures to minimise cybersecurity risks. This requires an awareness that each part of the chain needs to implement its own measures. The brochure also highlights what is already being done to mitigate existing risks and what companies can do in order to ensure the integrity of the chain. On a step-by-step basis the brochure informs the reader about cybersecurity risks and solutions in the different phases.
Simplifying fire door hardware specification with new ironmongery guide
A new guide to fire door hardware has been launched for specifiers by the Guild of Architectural Ironmongers
The Specifier’s Guide to Ironmongery for Fire and Escape Doors is one of five guides created by the Guild of Architectural Ironmongers (GAI) to ensure that anyone involved in the specification of architectural ironmongery has access to the latest, best practice advice. There are also guides to ironmongery for security, access control, accessibility and specialist applications.
Based on the RIBA approved CPD presentations created by the GAI, the guide contains comprehensive product information, diagrams and detail on the relevant building regulations and industry standards. All of the guides are available to download for free from the GAI website.
“We have produced these guides to ensure that all construction industry professionals have access to comprehensive guidelines and best practice covering all aspects of architectural ironmongery,” said Douglas Masterson, technical manager at the GAI. “We recognise that specifying architectural ironmongery can be complex, so we’ve pulled together all of the information a specifier will need to ensure the hardware is not only compliant but also performs as expected and suits the environment it is being used in.”
The Specifier’s Guide to Ironmongery for Fire and Escape Doors emphasises the critical role of fire and escape doors and the importance of correctly specified architectural ironmongery.
It explains different types of fire and escape doors and details the corresponding essential ironmongery, seals and signage including the standards that they must adhere to. It also contains a useful guide to the questions that need to be asked when specifying hardware for escape doors, as well as further guidance on fire door inspections and ongoing ironmongery maintenance.
The GAI is the body that represents the interests of the UK architectural ironmongery industry. Its qualifications, education and CPD programmes are widely respected in the UK and overseas. Its technical information service is the only specialist service of its kind and provides GAI members with comprehensive advice.
To download the guides for free visit: www.gai.org.uk
Why L2 powder fire extinguishers are not effective on lithium-ion battery fires
Firechief explain why L2 powder fire extinguishers are not an effective solution to lithium-ion battery fires and introduce the most effective alternative on the market today
The L2 powder fire extinguisher is the most commonly recommended fire extinguisher in the Class D Specialist Powder class, specifically for extinguishing burning lithium metal fires. Whilst the L2 is a specialist fire extinguisher for tackling Class D metal fires, more and more sites are claiming that they are also highly effective on lithium-ion battery fires and this is not necessarily correct.
The L2 fire extinguisher is a graphite powder extinguisher, in the case of magnesium it is designed to smother the fire by covering over the magnesium in the same way that it could be covered by a dry sand.
The graphite has good thermal conductivity so it helps to remove the heat whilst reducing the amount of oxygen available for the magnesium to burn. However, it does not provide an active coating since it does not form an impermeable layer unless you use a considerable amount, which is not generally the case.
L2 fire extinguishers can only be applied onto a flat surface as the extinguishant has no ability to adhere to vertical or other angular surfaces
In short, an L2 extinguisher can help to prevent the spread of the fire but will not actually extinguish it, so all the user will be doing is controlling the spread of the fire whilst waiting for it to burn out.
On the other hand, Lith-Ex extinguishers are ideally suited for Lithium-ion based battery fires. The Lith-Ex Extinguisher is compact, lightweight, easy to store, non-toxic and environmentally friendly. It will extinguish uncontrollable flames, quickly cool the excessive heat and prevent re-ignition, something that an ABC powder extinguisher or other liquid-based extinguishers will not be able to do on a Lithium-ion battery fire.
For Lithium-ion Battery Fires the best solution is to use a Lith-Ex extinguisher.
For more information on our safety products visit: www.firechiefglobal.com
To speak to our team, call: 0330 999 0019.