In the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire, the Grenfell Tower Inquiry has released its phase 1 report, detailing, amongst other things, the shortcomings of the response and what steps can be taken to ensure a tragedy of that magnitude never occurs again. While the piece focuses its recommendations on social housing, there are many actionable takeaways that every block manager can and should consider in their approach to the buildings they manage.
Review and assess
The worst thing any block manager can do is assume their building is safe. It doesn’t matter when or what spec it was built to; it’s important to thoroughly assess the structural integrity of your building and determine whether any changes need to be made. Many building companies are working with fire engineers; whether or not you choose to go down this route, it remains important to conduct a thorough analysis of the building you manage at regular intervals and check its fire safety credentials.
Engage and involve residents
Residents play a vital part in keeping a building safe so you need to involve them in the process. Be totally transparent about any actions you plan to take to make sure you keep them on board.
Accessible building plans and fire evacuation procedures
One of the findings of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry was that the local fire services did not have up-to-date information about the building’s refurbishment, which made it impossible to provide an appropriate response. Block managers should make sure local emergency services have updated detailed plans of the building, as well as a copy of the fire evacuation procedures in place. When it comes to formulating these fire evacuation plans, consider preparing personal evacuation plans for any residents with additional needs.
Inspect and upgrade basic features
While the other recommendations are relatively inexpensive, be prepared that some of your existing fire safety features may need upgrading. Fire doors should be checked every three months – and replaced if necessary – to ensure their self-closing devices are working effectively (several of these failed during the Grenfell Tower fire). Lifts required for use by firefighters, as well as the mechanism that allows an external body to take control of them, should be regularly inspected and upgraded or replaced if required. Every building could benefit from an in-built premises information box, containing details of all evacuation procedures as well as a copy of the floor plans.
For more risk assessment tips, check out this guide written in partnership with 4site Consulting: Quick Guide for Block Managers: Getting Risk Assessments Right.