Published October 30, 2019
Phase Two of the Grenfell Inquiry will consider the retrofitting of fire sprinklers to high-rise social housing blocks.
Sir Martin Moore-Bick says he will consider the role of fire sprinklers and wants to examine the Governments response to the Lakanal House disaster.
Recommendations were made then that owners of high-rise buildings should ‘consider’ retrofitting sprinklers.
But Sir Martin says he has been urged to consider demanding it becomes mandatory to fit sprinklers to all buildings regardless of age.
Phase One of the Grenfell Inquiry was published today with Sir Martin immediately calling on the government to take ‘urgent steps’ to improve fire safety.
He wants the Prime Minister to force high-rise building owners to:
- establish ‘premises information boxes’
- maintain up-to-date building plans and fire safety systems
- install clear floor signage to assist firefighters
- maintain and update evacuation plans
- conduct an urgent inspection of fire doors to ensure they comply with legislative standards
Sir Martin published his findings into the fire at Grenfell that ultimately led to the loss of 72 lives.
He was fiercely critical of senior London Fire Brigade management and had no doubts that the fire was the result of an electrical fault, and spread because of highly combustible cladding.
He said: “Today the inquiry has published its first report on the fire at Grenfell Tower. It covers Phase One of its investigation, which were directed to the course of events on the night of June 14, 2017.
The fire was a terrible tragedy which claimed the lives of many people so there is an urgent need to understand what happened and ho3 a modern building would have been engulfed by flames and destroyed.
“In answering that question the first step is to find out exactly what happened; how the fire started, how it escaped from the flat where it began and how it spread over the whole building.
That has been the focus of Phase 1 of the inquiry, in the course of which I heard evidence from residents who escaped from the burning building, firefighters of all ranks, both those who attended the blaze and those who operated the control room, and representatives of the other emergency services, the council, and the Tenant Management Organisation.
“I pay tribute to the courage and devotion to duty shown by firefighters, who repeatedly entered the building to rescue occupants at great risk to themselves and also to the unstinting efforts of the control room staff who were faced with an unprecedented volume of calls, many of which were of a very distressing nature.
“However, I am critical of many aspects of the LFBs response. Those that were liable to be called upon to act as incident commanders were not trained to recognise a fire in the external wall of a high rise building. Nor were they trained in how to respond to it.
“There was no contingency plan for evacuation of the tower and the LFB failed to revoke the stay-put advice at a time when the stairs remained passable. Had it done so more lives could have been saved.”
Sir Martin believes ‘systemic failings in the organisation of the LFB show it had failed to learn the lessons of the Lakanal House fire’ and will consider further steps in Phase Two of the Inquiry.
The former Judge was in little doubt that the materials used during the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower enabled the fire, started as a result of an electrical fault, to spread across the building.
He added : “I find that the following the refurbishment the external walls of the building did not comply with the building regulations because they did not adequately resist the spread of fire over them. On the contary, they promoted it.”
Sir Martin will begin Phase Two of the Grenfell Inquiry in the New Year. It will focus on the issues how and why such materials happened to be fitted on the building.
The Inquiry will hear from a variety of experts and will also consider the recommendations that were made by Coroner Frances Kirkham following the 2009 deadly fire at Lakanal House.
Six people were killed and at least 20 injured during the fire in the 12-storey building. Ms Kirkham wrote to then Communities Secretary Eric Pickle to recommend housing providers responsible for high-rise flats should ‘consider the retrofitting of sprinkler systems.’
Sir Martin added: “The coroner who conducted the inquests arising out of the Lakanal House fire heard evidence about the installation of sprinklers and recommended that the government encourage housing providers responsible for high-rise buildings containing multiple domestic promises to consider fitting them.
“It is not surprising, therefore, that some core participants have urged me to go a step further and to recommend that such systems be installed in all existing high-rise residential buildings.
“Sprinkler systems no doubt have a very valuable part to play in the overall scheme of fire safety measures, but whether such a system would be likely to have suppressed the fire in Flat 16 or prevented it from escaping into the cladding before the firefighters could extinguish it is not something that was investigated in Phase 1.
“I have therefore heard no evidence about the use of sprinklers generally, their effectiveness under different conditions, or about the cost and disruption that would be caused by installing them in existing buildings.
“In those circumstances, I can not make any recommendations at this stage about the installation of sprinklers in existing buildings, although the governments’s response to previous recommendations will form an important part of the investigation to be carried out at Phase 2.”
Even though the Inquiry is only at the mid-way stage Sir Martin wants the government to take some immediate steps to prevent a repeat of the tragedy.
He added: “It is already clear to me however, that there are steps that can and should be taken now to improve the safety from fire of those who live in high-rise buildings.
“The report therefore contains a number of recommendations which I hope will lead to improvements in the response to fires in high-rise residential buidiongs, better understanding by fire and rescue services of the dangers involved in the use of some modern materials, improvements in their ability to recognise fires in high-rise buildings that threaten effective compartmentation and the introduction of better systems for warning occupants of the need to leave a building when it is necessary to do so, among many other things.
“In my letter to the Prime Minister I have said that I confidently expect the Government and those responsible for the oversight and governance of the emergency services to implement my recommendations without delay.”
View Sir Martin’s Report
Executive Summary – click this link
GTI – Phase 1 full report – volume 1 [PDF, 82 pages – 3.1mb] – click this link
GTI – Phase 1 full report – volume 2 [PDF, 240 pages – 6.4mb] – click this link
GTI – Phase 1 full report – volume 3 [PDF, 194 pages – 6.4mb] – click this link
GTI – Phase 1 full report – volume 4 [PDF, 340 pages – 6.7mb] – click this link
Back to News