London Fire Brigade - about rise in unsafe buildings

2021-09-15

The commissioner of the London Fire Brigade has said he is ‘extremely concerned’ by an increase in the number of buildings failing fire safety tests

Andy Roe, head of the UK’s second largest fire service, called for ‘urgent change in the building industry’ as the number of unremediated London apartment blocks that failed fire safety tests passed 1,000 for the first time.

In the capital, 1,006 buildings now have the ‘stay put’ strategy for dealing with a fire suspended. This means they are not safe enough for residents to remain inside during any outbreak of fire.

Buildings with the ‘stay put’ strategy suspended must have a ‘simultaneous evacuation’ strategy in place, together with either waking watches or common alarms being used to notify all residents in the case of a fire.

The unsafe buildings include 718 buildings that have issues with flammable cladding, while the others have other fire safety defects such as missing cavity barriers. Most (818) of the buildings are over 18m tall.

The latest London Fire Brigade figures for unsafe buildings (for August) show that the number of buildings that had failed fire safety tests increased by 39 compared with the previous month.

Roe said: ‘We are extremely concerned that, more than four years after the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the number of buildings being identified with fire safety issues is increasing.

‘The scale of issues being uncovered in buildings across the UK is worrying and there are much wider issues than just dangerous cladding.

‘There is a far higher number of high-risk buildings in London than anywhere else in the country and it’s clear that there has not yet been a complete culture change when it comes to fire safety in residential buildings.’

He added: ‘[It is] unacceptable for residents to be burdened with knowledge their building may not be safe. We’re calling on all building owners and managers to take urgent action to remediate their buildings if there are serious fire safety failings.

‘It is completely unacceptable for residents to be burdened with the knowledge, and the fear that can bring, that their building may not be safe in the event of a fire.’

Roe added that frontline fire crews were carrying out regular familiarisation visits to the high-risk buildings, but that this was a drain on the brigade’s resources – another reason why the buildings should be remediated as soon as possible.