FBU responds to Dispatches on Grenfell
19 February 2019
THE FIRE Brigades Union will be looking in detail at the issues raised by Channel 4 Dispatches Grenfell: Did the Fire Brigade Fail?
Commenting on the programme, FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said, “It’s absolutely right that the bereaved, residents and survivors ask the difficult questions and we are not against being asked these; absolutely no person or organisation should be immune from criticism. We are united in our quest for justice over the tragic events of 14th June 2017.
“It is unfortunately true that nobody had planned for a fire like the one that unfolded at Grenfell, and without sufficient planning, and the procedures and training which would follow, firefighters were placed in an impossible situation, from start to finish. Firefighters were also unable to implement normal safety and operational procedures due to the spread of the fire up and around the building, and as a result, placed themselves at great risk.
“We have never been afraid of criticising individual fire and rescue services, and in our view, London Fire Brigade has questions to answer on their preparation for a fire such as this. However, this is a national issue that demonstrates national failings; it is the failure of Ministers to monitor and address national safety issues. This is not solely a London issue, there are hundreds of high rise buildings across the UK with similar cladding as on Grenfell tower, and therefore requires national oversight and intervention from government.
“From the outset of the Inquiry, I along with others warned that the terms of reference could shut down or delay the real investigation of the underlying causes of the disaster. The delay of phase two until late this year or even 2020, sadly confirms these fears and is a blow to anyone seeking justice. The building owners, the local authority, the politicians, their advisors, the very people who have allowed public safety to be undermined over decades, need to be held accountable.”
Responding to specific issues raised in the programme, Matt Wrack said:
“The union has made urgent recommendations for a national review of the stay put policy, to be initiated by the government and which it has failed to do. The stay put policy is based on the compartmentalisation of buildings. Attention should therefore be given to why building regulations were not followed by the building owners, whose responsibility it was to ensure residents’ safety and plans for any emergency, such as a fire.”
Recommendations made following Lakanal House
“It’s clear that lessons from previous fires have not been applied, and management of fire and rescue services, including the London Fire Brigade, must take responsibility for this, as should government. The government (DCLG) were clearly warned about risks arising out of Lakanal House, and yet did nothing substantial to address these, either nationally or locally. The so-called guidance on evacuation procedure is completely inadequate, it provides no details on how to make an evacuation in the event of a fire, and nor has it been through any realistic testing.”
“We do not recognise the programme’s analysis of rescues made by firefighters on the night. We agree with statements made by London Fire Brigade that around 65 residents were helped to safety by firefighters. The claim that residents could have been evacuated in seven minutes has never been tested, and was put forward by someone who has never conducted an evacuation. We raised concerns to the Inquiry that this claim should be tested to ascertain its validity, yet this was not done. In any event, this claim was made with the caveat that a whole building fire alarm system would have been necessary to carry out such an evacuation in seven minutes. There was no such fire alarm system in place at Grenfell.”