Lessons from the Grenfell Tower Fire in London June 2017

August 31st, 2017

Have a Plan B! The Grenfell Tower was a 24 storey high rise residential apartment building housing up to 600 people.  It only had a single stairwell to be used as an emergency exit.  The stairwell was compromised (full of smoke) leaving residents with no safe alternative.

What is your Plan B?

Stay in Place or Evacuate? The Emergency Procedures for the building were to stay in your apartment until advised to evacuate by the fire service.  The fire spread rapidly making it near impossible to escape using these procedures.  These procedures arguably resulted in many of the deaths.

The policy was designed to enable the fire service to move into the building, which would have not been possible with 600 people exiting through the single stairwell.

What do your emergency procedures say?

We would recommend only using the stay in place strategy after careful consideration, our preference is to evacuate!

Combustible Material The cladding on the outside of the building was combustible.  This was the main contributor to the rapid spread of the fire.

This type of material has been used in buildings in Australia even though it is not permitted in certain building types.

As a result of this fire and the Lacrosse Building in Melbourne (2015) all states are reviewing high rise buildings for compliance.

Are the materials used in your building, or stored inside your building going to add to your fire risk?

Are you a Criminal? The key people responsible for the maintenance and management of the Grenfell Tower are currently being investigated for criminal manslaughter.

The impact of the investigation on the people concerned will be significant, both emotionally and as a financial burden (court and lawyers costs).

Are your actions able to stand up to this type of investigation?  Could you live with the decisions you make regarding fire safety if a fire were to happen and someone was killed or injured?

Fires do Happen While there is a low probability of a fire, there is a high probability that there will be a fire at some business every week.

Did you know that the South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service respond to around 1,200 structural fires every year (source SAMFS Annual Report 2015-16).  Given that many small fires are not reported to the fire service we estimate that the total number of fires in Adelaide are at least 5,000 each year. That’s nearly 100 fires every week!

It is therefore likely that over your working life you are likely to experience at least one fire.

Resource: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grenfell_Tower_fire

So What should you do?

 

If you are responsible for the maintenance of fire protection systems at your workplace then you should ensure that:

 

1. You have an Emergency Procedures (or Plan) that staff are trained in and is regularly tested. If you need more information on Emergency Planning review our article on this topic.

2. Ensure that your fire protection systems and equipment is being maintained correctly. We are working on a suite of articles about how to setup, select and manage a fire protection maintenance contractor.  It is our experience that many businesses are not maintaining all of the systems that they are required to.  Like the combustible cladding on the Grenfell Tower this missing maintenance could have catastrophic consequences.

3. You action any recommendations presented to you by the fire protection maintenance contractor.  By not actioning them you are taking on the legal responsibility / liability that may result from not undertaking this work.  As well as potential legal charges you may also not receive the full insurance payout, refer to our interview with Alan Wilson Insurance Brokers.

4. You are observant to any fire risks. Small actions taken by workers or occupants of a building can create a fire risk.  You need to be constantly vigilant to ensure that risk is maintained at acceptable levels at all times.  One method of doing this is to ensure that your electrical equipment is tested and tagged.

Stay Safe!