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.
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 LFB'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.
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: "Today's 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 will continue to work with other experts and government to look at ways we can prevent a tragedy of this scale happening again.