This Safety Alert has been issued to highlight lessons learnt following the horrific fire at Grenfell Tower resulting in the death of 79 people, and an aftermath of trauma and residents displaced from their homes.
Whilst the investigation and public enquiry progresses into the causes and accountability for the devastation that occurred at Grenfell Tower, the implications that the materials used and the standards imposed may not be ‘fit for purpose’. How then does that impact on other medium & low rise buildings and the materials in use to ensure that everything is done ‘so far as reasonably practicable’?
We all know that heat travels upwards, but it can also travel sideways because of surface combustibility and external influences e.g. wind / air movement or heat radiation / conductivity. Similarly, fire risk assessments may not have properly considered compartmentation/fire stopping or surface spread of flame. Means of escape may not always be straight forward, particularly for those within houses of multiple occupation, mixed use with shared facilities and for people with impaired ability.
The lesson to be learned, should be to review your fire risk assessments and emergency procedures to ensure they are current, properly understood by all those affected, take account of maintenance & refurbishment work carried out; including decoration of communal areas, fire doors including glazing, smoke seals and compartmentation structures have not been compromised and following changes to legislation and safety standards.
Points to consider
- Ensure your Fire Risk Assessment was conducted by a competent authority, not more than 12 months old or following any building alterations, changes to internal layout or different occupancy.
- Where building alterations have been undertaken ensure that the materials and workmanship comply with current building and fire regulations and associated International / British standards.
- Ensure you liaise with your local fire & rescue authority to agree emergency response arrangements particularly where multiple or unusual occupancy requires special needs. DO NOT RELY ON REFUGES as safe havens or assume that everybody has escaped when the alarm sounds.
- Ensure fire alarms are routinely serviced and tested methodically; using different call points, bells and sirens can be heard in all areas of the building, emergency lighting is working and battery discharge tests are undertaken annually, escape routes are clearly signed and unobstructed at all times.
- Communicate your emergency and evacuation plans and practice them to ensure they work.
- where fire-fighting and suppression systems are installed, ensure they are tested annually and are not impaired by ongoing maintenance work, abuse or vandalism.
Issued by C.G Lawson: SRC
© Steel River Consultants Ltd – 2017