The public inquiry report found that: ‘effective compartmentation was lost at an early stage’ as a result of the fire on the outside quickly entering many flats via the windows due to the failure of the glass. The ASFP finds this not unexpected, nor is the failure of some key fire protection measures inside the tower. Such failures were highlighted in 2003 in a Government-sponsored ASFP report on passive fire protection in buildings, which stated: “Public safety is being impinged by incorrect passive fire protection measures and we feel that a disaster caused by accelerated or unexpected fire spread could follow if no action is taken to improve initial standards and to define the responsibility of building occupiers.”
The ASFP believes the failings of the building (and others like it) are the result of decades of a prevalent culture in which fire safety has not been considered seriously. ASFP CEO Niall Rowan states: “Since the 1980s as fire deaths fell – mainly due to the fitting of smoke alarms, improved upholstered furniture and the decline in smoking – there was a culture in Government that fire safety was ‘solved’ and we must not do anything to make building more expensive. Changes in building materials and construction processes have transformed the way in which our building stock behaves in fire… and light touch enforcement of building regulations has frequently resulted in buildings that offer poor levels of fire protection.”
The report suggests that the fire service bears some blame for loss of life at Grenfell. The ASFP submission notes that fire service personnel worked tirelessly in a very challenging environment; while it is legitimate to question why the ‘stay put’ guidance was not rescinded earlier, such guidance has served firefighting operations well. ASFP notes, last year there were more than 5,000 fires in purpose-built blocks of flats where ‘stay put’ policies were successfully implemented and compartmentation was effective.
The ASFP has long campaigned for passive fire protection products to be third-party certificated and for installers also to be members of third-party certified installation schemes. “We hope that Grenfell will be the catalyst for change… necessary to ensure the safety of our existing and future built environment,” said Niall.
To find out more visit grenfelltowerinquiry.org.uk/phase-1-report
Image credit | Getty