Robust reforms to fire safety have been announced by Priti Patel to strengthen fire and rescue services, putting the majority of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry recommendations into law.
The plans were set out last week (18 May) in the Government’s Fire Reform White Paper, intended to help strengthen the emergency services and seek to ensure people feel safer in their homes.
The Home Secretary visited Old Kent Road fire station in London alongside the Minister of State for Building Safety and Fire, Lord Stephen Greenhalgh, to announce the package – which will build upon changes following the Grenfell Tower fire and findings from independent inspection reports.
The reforms announced include the commencement of the Fire Safety Act 2021 – which will make sure all blocks of flats are properly assessed for fire safety risks – and the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022, which are intended to help ensure people feel safe in their homes.
These legislative changes pave the way for meeting many of the remaining Grenfell Tower Inquiry recommendations and will deliver fire safety improvements in multi-occupied residential buildings such as ensuring that fire and rescue services have the information they need to plan their response to a fire in a high-rise building and imposing a minimum frequency for checks on all fire doors in mid and high-rise blocks of flats.
The White Paper sets out to deliver three main aims:
- Increased public safety: by improving the professionalism of the fire and rescue service through modern workforce practices and potentially establishing a College of Fire and Rescue.
- Improved accountability: through the proposals to transfer fire governance to a single elected individual, overseeing delivery by operationally independent Chief Fire Officers.
- Better engagement with the public: through a 10-week consultation the government will listen to the views of the public and stakeholders, after which it will finalise its reform programme.
Lord Greenhalgh said the Government is tackling fire reform issues “head on”, while Patel added the White Paper will be transformative in how firefighters are trained and will enable fire and rescue services to build on their strengths and leadership.
Building on this, the Home Secretary also launched a new consultation on its alternative package of proposals to support the fire safety of residents whose ability to self-evacuate may be compromised.
This includes a new proposal known as Emergency Evacuation Information Sharing, which would require designated “Responsible Persons” – individuals responsible for fire safety in their building – of the highest risk buildings to assess the needs of their most vulnerable residents and consider what might reasonably be done to mitigate any risks to fire safety.
The White Paper is available to download here.