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30-10-19

NFCC responds to Grenfell phase 1 report

The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) today responded to the release of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 report. The report from Inquiry Chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick has now been made available to the public and contains conclusions from the first phase of the Inquiry, examining the terrible events from the night of 14 June 2017 when 72 people tragically lost their lives.

Chair of the NFCC, Roy Wilsher, commented on the exemplary representations made throughout the Inquiry by the bereaved, survivors and residents: “The Grenfell Tower fire was unparalleled in this country in terms of the scale of the impact this tragedy has had on the community; I have never seen a fire like it in my career. The way members of the Grenfell community have carried themselves throughout the last two-and-a-half years with the dignity and compassion they have in the pursuit of justice, has been truly humbling to witness.

“My thoughts today are also with all those first responders at Grenfell Tower, who were put into impossible situations.

“The NFCC has now received a copy of the Chairman’s Phase 1 report. The report includes findings related to the response on the night and these will no doubt have implications for fire and rescue services across the UK. We will be properly and carefully considering the content of the report and will respond fully in due course.”

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.

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. However, 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. 

NFCC has worked tirelessly since the night of 14 June 2017 in our efforts to coordinate a national response to this unacceptable tragedy, including our efforts to:

  • Help keep residents safe, by coordinating information about buildings with unsafe ACM cladding to local fire and rescue services so they can take appropriate action and work with the responsible person for the building and other responsible agencies
  • Provide advice and support to the Independent Expert Advisory Panel, established by Government
  • Publish centrally coordinated guidance on temporary simultaneous evacuation strategies for buildings with an unacceptable level of fire risk, developed in co-operation with MHCLG, sector experts and other stakeholders
  • Provide robust advice and challenge from fire safety experts into Government reviews examining how to make buildings safer, including the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety by Dame Judith Hackitt
  • Responded to government consultations to provide evidence to influence change

Mr Wilsher stressed the desperate need to strengthen the whole underpinning building regulations system. “UK Fire and Rescue Services will take every opportunity to reflect on the lessons identified in the report and turn these into lessons learned, and make any changes necessary to strengthen the fire and rescue service we provide to the public. However, fire and rescue services cannot be expected to fully mitigate fires that break out in buildings that are not built or maintained in accordance with the building regulations, or where the regulations themselves are inadequate.

“Significant action must be taken to improve the building and construction industry, regulations and address the broken system, identified by Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review. The failure of those responsible for these buildings to step up to their obligations is putting residents and firefighters at risk.”

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