Ian Hart

Editor, Safety & Health Practitioner

October 30, 2019

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Grenfell Tower

Grenfell Tower fire: London Fire Brigade condemned for ‘serious shortcomings’ in its response

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 report, has heavily criticised the response of The London Fire Brigade (LFB) citing ‘serious shortcomings’ and ‘systemic failures’.


72 people were killed by the fire that engulfed the Grenfell Tower block in North Kensington, West London on Wednesday, 14 June 2017.

The 24-storey tower block burned throughout the day, taking firefighters over 24 hours to get it under control, leading to confusion and uncertainty that lasted for days.

In the 1,000-page document, which will be officially published today, enquiry Chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick states that fewer people would have died, if the LFB had taken certain actions earlier.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the report “gives the victims the truth,” and that the world “is finally hearing the truth about what happened.”

Issues highlighted in the report included:

  • A lack of training in how to ‘recognise the need for an evacuation or how to organise one’;
  • Incident commanders ‘of relatively junior rank” being unable to change strategy;
  • Control room officers lacking training on when to advise callers to evacuate;
  • An assumption that crews would reach callers, resulting in ‘assurances which were not well founded’;
  • Communication between the control room and those on the ground being ‘improvised, uncertain and prone to error’;
  • A lack of an organised way to share information within the control room, meaning officers had ‘no overall picture of the speed or pattern of fire spread’;

Click here to read the The Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 report in full.

Sir Martin Moore-Bick issued the following statement, on publishing the report.

In response, the LFB said it would “carefully and fully consider all of Sir Martin Moore-Bick’s Phase 1 report and take every action we can to improve public safety,” but that it was “disappointed” by some of the criticism of individuals. It also added disappointment that “measures we have been calling for are not in the recommendations, including the wider use of sprinklers in both new and existing buildings”.

On the night of the fire, the London Fire Brigade received an unprecedented number of 999 calls, but the report calls their operation beset by “shortcomings in practice, policy and training”. It said that call handlers were not always obtaining necessary information from the calls to ascertain where in the building the call originated from. It also says that some handlers were not made aware of what to tell residents in terms of when to evacuate.

Sir Martin says that operators were “not aware of the danger of assuming that crews would always reach callers”, stating a lack of lessons learnt from the 2009 fire at Lakanal House.

On 16 September 2019, it was revealed that, as part of the investigation into the fire, The LFB had been interviewed under caution by police. The interviews were conducted voluntarily, “as a body, rather than an individual” in relation to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, the fire service said.

London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said that the fire service recognised the need for answers by survivors and the bereaved. She said that hundreds of LFB staff and volunteers had already provided interview voluntarily and that they would continue to assist the investigation.

“We must all understand what happened and why to prevent communities and emergency services from ever being placed in such impossible conditions ever again,” she added.

Ms Cotton herself was not exempt from criticism, regarding her evidence to the public inquiry in September 2018. She told the hearing that she wouldn’t change a thing about the LFB’s response to the fire.

The report said she showed “remarkable insensitivity” and a lack of willing to learn lessons from Grenfell.

With news that hundreds of buildings still have ‘unsafe’ cladding, IFSEC Global asked a number of fire safety experts, ‘Grenfell Tower: Have lessons been learned two years on?‘ They discussed whether, two years on from the worst residential fire in living memory, there has been an adequate cultural shift – in government, the construction industry and among responsible persons – and whether this will persist.

This article was originally published on SHP.

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