The Grenfell Tower Inquiry calls for far reaching changes in building fire safety and fire and rescue service practices. Published today, the 935-page report sets out urgent actions for the government and those responsible for the emergency services but stops short of recommending the installation of sprinklers in high-rise buildings.
There is a raft of recommendations to change how London Fire Brigade operates but many of these and other broader recommendations will affect all fire and rescue services. The Inquiry’s forensic approach reveals gaps and weaknesses in how London Fire Brigade prepared for and responded to the fire in Grenfell Tower that claimed 72 lives on 14 June 2017.
Investigating the cause of the fire, its development, the steps taken by the London Fire Brigade and the other emergency services, Sir Martin Moore-Bick says, “It is important that any recommendations I make at this, or indeed any other, stage should be based firmly on the facts that have emerged from the evidence obtained by the Inquiry in the course of my investigations.”
Covering a wide range of operations, Sir Martin Moore-Bick makes recommendations that will require changes in legislation but he does not comment on whether the definition of high-rise should remain at 18 metres. “It was not the subject of examination in phase” but will be examined in phase 2.
In among the recommendations, Sir Martin focuses not only on what fire and rescue services themselves should do but also looks at national approaches to change. These include guidelines for carrying out partial or total evacuations of high-rise buildings. He says that fire and rescue services should, “Provide a greater range of responses, including partial or full evacuation. Appropriate steps must therefore be taken to enable alternative evacuation strategies to be implemented effectively.”
There are eight recommendations relating to Fire Survival Guidance calls. Some are London Fire Brigade specific but most are relevant for all fire and rescue services, with a specific requirement to develop policy, “For managing a transition from ‘stay put’ to ‘get out’”.
There are some specific recommendations, including, “All fire and rescue services should be equipped with smoke hoods to assist in the evacuation of occupants through smoke-filled exit routes.” London Fire Brigade introduced these in the last year. He calls for all fire and rescue services to ensure staff understand the risk of fire taking hold in external walls.
Co-operation between the emergency services is covered and a specific recommendation relating to the Joint Doctrine is made in relation to how major incidents are declared. It is a timely reminder of the importance of JESIP.
The report is available on the Grenfell Tower Inquiry website.