Delays To Fire Safety Reform Are Putting Lives At Risk

Slow Progress in Addressing Grenfell Inquiry Recommendations

The pandemic has slowed the rate of fire safety reform progression following the Grenfell Tower tragedy of 2017.

The Grenfell Inquiry’s phase one report was released on October 30th, 2019, which investigated the principal reasons as to why the Grenfell Tower tragedy took place in 2017. The report also details recommendations for fire safety reform, to ensure that this type of incident is never allowed to occur again. Unfortunately, a year after this report was published, few steps have been taken to mitigate against these risks and to provide peace of mind to residents of similar housing blocks. Although Covid-19 has caused widespread disruption across all sectors this year, further delays to fire safety reform are putting lives at risk.

The Grenfell Fire Tragedy

On June 14th, 2017, an electrical fault with a fridge freezer in a flat within the Grenfell Tower in west London caused fire to spread quickly throughout the tower block. All 24 storeys of the building quickly succumbed to the flames, and 350 residents were at risk. Sadly, 72 people lost their lives in the fire, in a tragedy which sent shockwaves throughout the capital and saddened the entire UK. The reason that the fire was able to spread out of control so quickly, was due to combustible cladding which the block had been built with. This cladding didn’t meet safety regulations. Of grave concern is the fact that many other tower block properties in the capital are built with similar flammable cladding. As yet, not all have had this stripped down and replaced with a safer alternative, which therefore means that a significant number of lives are still at risk.

London Mayor’s Reaction

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is anxious that this type of tragedy could well happen again without an appropriate plan to prioritise and fast-track these essential building alterations. He accuses the government of putting lives at risk by not being able to implement the Grenfell Tower’s Inquiry recommendations in a timely manner. He urges the government, as well as building owners to stop failing the Grenfell community and to create a scheduled delivery plan to cover the necessary works. These will include removing all flammable cladding, installing fire rated doors on all floors and ensuring that all residences are equipped with working smoke detection units.

Overhauling Fire Safety

As well as fire detection and prevention within a building, there are also other aspects of fire safety that require a reform. The processes and competency of those involved in building regulations also needs an overhaul, as does the fire service itself. Of concern though is the fact that the London Fire Brigade has so far only been able to complete four out of the 29 recommendations it was provided with in the inquiry report. This includes the introduction of smoke hoods to assist in the rescue process. The remaining 25 steps are in hand and it is estimated that they should be operational by March 2021.

Although the pandemic has naturally caused some delays to progress, faster action is required to make the necessary physical modifications and safeguard those Londoners who are still living in dangerous conditions.