NO FIRE ESCAPE! Tory fire safety guidance fails

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Firefighters greeted by local residents on the silent walk through Kensington to remember all those who died in the Grenfell fire

NEW GOVERNMENT fire safety guidance fails to include escape plans, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) warned yesterday.

RIBA insist that the government’s guidance does not include occasions when the ‘stay-put’ policy has to be abandoned.

In the case of the Grenfell Tower fire, which tragically claimed the lives of 72 men, women and children, the building itself was not designed for evacuation, because it only has one staircase. This means that as firefighters are running up with their equipment to fight the fire, it is impossible for everyone to run down.

RIBA said: ‘For too long government and the construction industry have relied on building design and construction that meets the regulatory requirements to resist the spread of fire.’

It adds that the guidance assumes that ‘measures to resist the spread of fire will be effective and the stay-put policy can be relied on, with no provision for when fire spreads beyond compartments and occupants need or choose to leave their flats.’

It called on the government to focus on adding guidance on enabling people to safely evacuate or be rescued from their flats during a fire when the guidance is reviewed.

RIBA said there should be at least two staircases in new multiple occupancy residential buildings, something which is already required in offices and hotels and is being introduced in Scotland.

It also wants a requirement for sprinklers in all new and converted residential buildings, and the retrofitting of sprinklers in existing residential buildings above 18 metres.

Meanwhile, residents of the iconic 43-storey Halo Tower have been warned to evacuate immediately if a fire breaks out after dangerous cladding was discovered on buildings in the same development.

Halo Tower is a private block, part of a 700-home development, which comprises a number of buildings on the edge of the Olympic Park in Stratford in east London.

A number of them are clad in flammable high-pressure laminate (HPL) panels which will need to be replaced.

A study published earlier this year showed that HPL panels release heat 25 times faster and burn 115 times hotter than non-combustible products.

A waking watch of fire wardens has been put in place at the luxury private rent tower, the largest housing association block in the country, a letter sent by housing association Notting Hill Genesis (NHG) says.

Residents of the tower have been warned to evacuate immediately if a fire breaks out.

HPL is not the same as that used on Grenfell Tower, but has been widely linked to fire safety fears and was used on Lakanal House in south London where six people were killed in a fire in 2009.