Hannah Mansell

Spokesperson, BWF Fire Door Safety Week

June 14, 2017

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GRENFELL TOWER FIRE

London fire: Councils and social landlords have ignored our warnings for years

We have a right to be very angry at the news about Grenfell Tower.

I regularly sit in meetings with fire safety professionals, and their fury and frustration at the inaction of local councils and social landlords is palpable.

We have been warning about the risks of a fire like this for years. ‘What we need to get people to take notice is a huge fire in a tower block’ they say. Well, here it is.

There is an endemic fire safety problem in this type of housing stock. I have walked around tower blocks documenting and filming the fire safety breaches.

I’ve seen flats without fire doors, no emergency lighting or signage on fire doors and escape routes, broken fire rated glass, wedged-open fire doors, poor fire stopping around service hatches that breach compartmentation, no smoke seals in fire doors, rubbish and combustible material left in the common areas, and no information displayed on the specific fire plan of the building.

Deaf ears

But that information appears to fall on deaf ears. Action must be taken now to address these issues.

Our hearts go out to the residents of Grenfell Tower, their neighbours, friends and families, and the extraordinarily brave fire fighters and medics who are continuing to deal with the emergency.

And to every local council and housing association I say, you know what to do, take action today. The next one could be tomorrow.

More than half of all tenants (58%) and over 70% of lower income tenants have no idea who the ‘Responsible Person’ is for the building where they live

Research for Fire Door Safety Week last year underlines some of the problems, in particular showing that the poorest in society continue to be at greatest risk from fire, with lower income tenants more concerned about fire safety where they live, less informed about how to protect themselves, and less able to move away from perceived danger.

Just a third (35%) of the lowest income households renting flats say they have been given information on the emergency fire plan for the building where they live, compared to 88% of tenants on incomes over £100,000 a year.

Those on incomes of £25,000 or less are much less likely to feel completely safe from fire (27%) than those on incomes above £80,000 (44%).

But two out of every nine (22%) households with incomes under £25,000 living in rented flats who have concerns over fire safety are unable to move because they can’t afford to.

More than half of all tenants (58%) and over 70% of lower income tenants have no idea who the ‘Responsible Person’ is for the building where they live – the person to whom they should usually report their fire safety concerns. And worryingly, 15% of all tenants living in blocks of flats who have got fire safety concerns have never reported those concerns to anyone at all.

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7 Comments on "London fire: Councils and social landlords have ignored our warnings for years"

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John
Guest

Yet again… lives lost from what could be wanton negligence and cost over care. Makes me so angry that this is allowed to happen; totally avoidable.

No-one deserves to be treated this way

Iain
Guest
Totally agree that landlords whether council or privatley run housing accommodation need to act a lot quicker & smarter when dealing with tenants concerns relating to fire safety issues. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety ) Order 2005, puts this responsibility clearly with the responsible person and they should have reviewed the emergency plan that was in place at that time ensuring that it was still suitable/addequate after changing or adding different materials that may have had an impact on how a fire may take hold and spread. An adequate assessment of risk obviously didn’t happen as it should have, as… Read more »
Lindsay
Guest
I totally agree here, week on week I come up against poor management of buildings, lack of information provided on evacuation strategies, lack of knowledge on extraction and fire warning systems and the sheer incompetence by some contractors to fit fire doors correctly is appalling, some of these being new builds that you would presume somebody qualified has signed off and certified the works as suitable? Mind boggling! Working for an ever diminishing fire service that has many a thousand high risk premises it’s a case of unless members of the public or otherwise inform us of issues they go… Read more »
Andrew Thompson
Guest

Excellent article. As always, Hannah hits the mark! Maybe this is the sea change…..

Natalia
Guest

An excellent article! Like most of the people I am devastated by the inferno at Grenfell Tower and my thoughts are with those who have been affected. The only hope is that while our leaders are most willing to listen we shall not overlook other endemic fire safety problems – most obvious first!

I started the petition please sign and pass it on:
https://www.change.org/p/the-department-for-communities-and-local-government-rethink-fire-safety-most-obvious-first?recruiter=535871996&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=share_email_responsive

Alex
Guest

To blame councils and social landlords – sure, and how about incompetent fire risk assessors and those who awarded them certification?

Alex
Guest

Deaf ears. Where is my comment: To blame councils and social landlords – sure, and how about incompetent fire risk assessors and those who awarded them certification?

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