Ronnie King OBE On The LGA's Annual Fire Conference

March 28, 2019

Ronnie King OBE, O.St. J, QFSM, F.I.Fire E
Adviser & Hon. Admin. Secretary.
All-Party Parliamentary Fire Safety & Rescue Group

 

I was asked to speak at the Local Government Association’s Annual 

Fire Conference in Brighton on 13th March 2019, about 'what would
the All-Party Parliamentary Group like specifically to see come out
of the reforms flowing from Hackitt, with particular relevance to
Fire & Rescue Services (resourcing issues and implications)'?


I opened by saying that: THE GROUP BELIEVES THAT AFTER SIX
YEARS SINCE THE CORONER’S RULE 43 LETTER FOLLOWING THE
INQUEST AT LAKANAL HOUSE FIRE TRAGEDY, ALMOST TWO YEARS
SINCE GRENFELL AND TWO YEARS INTO THE PUBLIC INQUIRY –
(WITH PHASE TWO DEFERRED UNTIL 2020), IT’S APPROACHING
TWELVE MONTHS SINCE THE HACKITT FINAL REPORT, AND EVEN IF
THE REVIEW OF BUILDING REGULATIONS COMMENCES LATER THIS
YEAR (WHICH ISN’T CERTAIN) IT WILL STILL TAKE AT LEAST
ANOTHER YEAR TO COMPLETE, IT IS TIME TO ASK:
“WHAT HAS ACTUALLY CHANGED”?


Yes we have had all these bodies and Groups established, with calls
for evidence and reviews planned but regulatory change or
prescriptive action is still some time away!!


ON THE WEBSITE OF THE MINISTRY FOR HOUSING, COMMUNITIES
& LOCAL GOVERNMENT WE HAVE A PLETHORA OF
DOCUMENTATION COMING OUT DAILY
UNDER BUILDING SAFETY PROGRAMME – WE HAVE:-


a) TWENTY (20) ADVICE NOTES – UNDER “INDUSTRY STEERING
GROUP”

 

b) THIRTY EIGHT (38) LETTERS FROM THE “BUILDING SAFETY
PROGRAMME”


c) EIGHT (8) PAGES - NINETEEN (19) ANNEXES AND TEN (10)
UPDATES FROM THE “COMPETENT PERSON SCHEMES”.


UNDER GRENFELL TOWER: - WE HAVE:-


a) SIXTEEN (16) LETTERS FROM THE “INDEPENDENT RECOVERY
TASK FORCE”


b) TWENTY SIX (26) LETTERS TO “RESIDENTS” FOLLOWING THE
GRENFELL FIRE


c) THIRTY (30) “ANNOUNCEMENTS”


d) NINETEEN (19) ITEMS OF “GUIDANCE”


e) FORTY SEVEN (47) OTHER “PUBLICATIONS”


(IT IS LIKE A ‘SCATTERGUN’ FIRING OUT THESE NOTICES AND
GUIDANCE – AND WE HAVE TO ASK:
“WHO HAS CONTROL OF IT ALL? “WHO UNDERSTANDS IT OR HAS
TIME TO READ IT ALL”?) - I certainly don’t!!!


Yes we have taken steps to remove dangerous
materials and conditions, where found, in our high
rise/high risk buildings, and to his credit the Secretary
of State has ‘Banned’ combustible materials and ‘desk
top’ studies and we have proposals in place to Review
the Regulations – and to change the culture of the
construction industry.
But we need to see some more ‘instant’ but effective
measures that will demonstrate to the people who
live in high rise – high risk buildings, that Government

cares enough to take action NOW, and not to wait for
the Review of Approved Document B (ADB).


The Secretary of State told the Group when we met
him in January, that he will not hesitate to act
immediately again should he find it necessary to
implement an important safety measure, ahead of
any Regulatory change.


In this regard the Group thinks that there are some
immediate obvious steps that can be taken to ensure
real change has taken place:


1. The All-Party Group wants to see more automatic
fire sprinkler systems in more buildings because
they save lives, businesses, jobs and community
assets . We believe that these benefits should be
widely welcomed. (THE GROUP FULLY SUPPORTS
THE POSITION STATEMENT OF THE NATIONAL
FIRE CHIEFS COUNCIL IN THIS REGARD, BOTH IN
RELATION TO LIFE SAFETY AND PROPERTY
PROTECTION)
(And wishes to see standards on sprinklers which
are consistent with those in Wales and Scotland).

 

2. The All-Party Group wants to see the Secretary of
State’s ban of combustible materials on high risk
buildings to apply below 18 mtrs. (no one in such

risk buildings should have to feel that they are
surrounded by combustible materials, whatever
the height.

 

3. The All-Party Group wishes to see independent
third party certification schemes providing
assurance on product quality and fitness for
purpose. All those who have to interpret and/or
implement the Guidance to have appropriate
competence, to a standard of accreditation
recognised by a UKAS authorised body. This
includes the Fire and Rescue Service, which
according to recent Audit has been de-skilled in
Fire Safety, with a 40% reduction in its workforce.
A significant investment in the Fire & Rescue
Service is needed if it is to ‘up-skill’ its workforce,
and to meet the additional training necessary in
meeting the requirements of the Joint Regulatory
Group and Joint Competent Authority.

 

4. The Group shares the views of the Royal Institute
of British Architects in believing that hitherto, all
high rise/high risk buildings built, ought to have
more than one escape route, sending a clear
signal that there is recognition that having two
staircases will significantly enhance the

complementary nature of evacuation strategies
and firefighting operations.
The increased use of social media means that
people are more likely to become aware
of fires in their buildings than previously was the
case. This is changing the behaviour of high-rise
building occupants and has the potential to
increase the number of people attempting to use
the staircase.

 

5. The Group wants to see an outcome to the wide
media and public concern about having an
effective evacuation policy with adequate alarm
and warning procedures to suit the circumstances
prevailing.


6. Finally the Group supports the NFCC’s position on
Access for Fire Appliances and on issues relating
to the Water Act and water supplies, but it feels
that can be part of the ADB Review, if it has to
take precedent over some of the earlier issues
There will inevitably be resource implications of
this.

 

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