NFCC has a key role on newly-formed Stay Put steering group

The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) has a key role on the government’s newly-formed Stay Put technical steering group, which met for the first time earlier this week (18th December). The group will go some way to meeting part of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry phase one recommendations.

NFCC will bring considerable expertise to the project and has been calling on government for some time to undertake research into emergency evacuations, with a focus on high-rise buildings, as has London Fire Brigade.

Roy Wilsher, Chair of the NFCC, wrote to government to raise concerns about the lack of properly funded and dedicated research in this area. NFCC also believes it would be wholly irresponsible to make changes without considered research.

He commented: “I am pleased that the first meeting of this steering group has taken place. It brought together a number of key organisations and people to look at this vitally important – yet complex and challenging – area.

“Changing a building strategy must take into account people’s individual circumstances, such as disabilities and mobility; how any change would be communicated to residents; the impact of evacuation on firefighters' ability to tackle a fire and whether equipment, smoke and heat within the building could lead to injuries as people try to vacate the building.”

NFCC believes it would be wholly irresponsible to make changes without considered research.

NFCC Chair, Roy Wilsher

The initial meeting also included representatives from fire and rescue services, Building Regulations Advisory Committee (BRAC), fire engineers, the Home Office, MHCLG, building managers and researchers.

The group will oversee research on means of escape from a design, management and operational perspective. Today’s meeting discussed in detail what research would be needed for each of the four strands of research identified to date:

  • Data analysis and literature review
  • Social research and human behaviour
  • Building design and how it supports stay put
  • Operational research and interaction with stay put policy.

NFCC has made it clear that ‘Stay Put’ is a principle of building design – not a fire service policy. It has also reiterated that when buildings are built and maintained correctly, with effective fire resistance and compartmentation, then the stay put building strategy works well in the event of a fire in another part of the building.

Mr Wilsher added: “Following the Grenfell Tower fire it became clear that in some circumstances, especially when the fire protection in the building fails as catastrophically as it did at the Grenfell Tower fire and others since, stay put is no longer appropriate and alternative strategies need to be implemented to support evacuation and the safety of residents. This is especially relevant to high rise buildings with a single staircase, often home to vulnerable people, with the associated difficulties of evacuating an entire block alongside firefighting and search and rescue activity taking place.

“It is for these reasons that any changes to building strategies must be underpinned by comprehensive research, leading to robust guidance on the best way to carry out an emergency evacuation of a high rise building not designed for full evacuation. The failure of those responsible for building safety must step up to their obligations, as both residents and firefighters are currently at risk, which must change.”

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