Many of us witnessed the horror of the Grenfell tragedy unfold on television, some of us from our own flats within tower blocks. The disaster sparked a national concern about the safety of every residential tower block across the UK, leaving us wondering whether our tower block is safe.
The Grenfell Tower disaster
The devastating fire, which started in the early hours of Wednesday 14 June 2017, escalated into an unmanageable inferno within 30 minutes. A tower block of public housing flats located in North Kensington in London, Grenfell was constructed in 1970 and contained 120 flats spread across 24 storeys. 71 people tragically lost their lives in the fire, with the use of combustible cladding blamed for the ferocity of the fire.
After the fire, there are understandably high levels of anxiety amongst residents across the country, with reassurance needed that a similar disaster will not be repeated.
These tower blocks are a vital hive in the community, providing committees, clubs and meetings for residents to be heard and for disabled or elderly neighbours to feel included.
It is vital for meetings attended by building landlords – which may be block management agents such as http://www.completepropertygroup.co.uk/property-block-and-estate-management/ – and local MPs to be chaired to find out about safety and fire risk assessments. Residents must be able to voice their concerns to the authorities, with an inspection carried out by the local fire service. There is often a lack of documentation concerning emergency lighting and fire alarms; worryingly, just one-third of social tower housing has been re-clad since the disaster.
Compartmentation – barriers that prevent any fire spreading from one part of a building to another – can be breached when new bathrooms, new kitchens or communal systems for utilities such as energy are installed. This creates plenty of opportunities for a fire to spread and take hold.
Fire safety repairs must be carried out as soon as possible to fix any problems. Risk assessments must be undertaken – preferably level four assessments, which are safer and more substantial. Some blocks have employed fire wardens to patrol the premises 24 hours a day.
Residents should feel empowered and motivated to attend to their own fire safety; they should not feel frightened and powerless.