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Tower Blocks UK on Channel 5 News

Fire Risks for People with Disabilities in Tower Blocks on Channel 5 News

Liz Lowe Tower Blocks UK

I was asked at 24 hours’ notice to appear live on 28 March 2019 on the Channel 5 TV early evening news to join a panel discussion about the fire risks to people with disabilities living in Tower Blocks. Channel 5 had made a 4-minute investigative piece and wanted to follow it with a 6-minute panel discussion. All I knew was that the panel was to be someone from the Fire Brigade Union and hopefully someone from a disability charity, and that the film was sympathetic to people with disabilities stuck and at risk in Tower Blocks.

I have never been on TV, let alone live TV, so I sought advice from a friend who is much more media savvy. He advised me to start with a 15 second summary of what Tower Blocks UK is and to work out 4 key points I wanted to make. He said say them as quickly as you can then “job done” and you can relax.

So here is what I wanted to say:

Tower Blocks UK website provides information and resources for Tower Block residents and is a hub for individuals and organisations concerned with Fire Safety in Tower Blocks.

My 4 points are:

  • Flats should be Fire Safe for one hour, tower blocks should have Sprinklers and two Stairwells

  • Landlords and Fire Services have a Duty of Care to ensure people with limited mobility can be evacuated quickly and safely for which they should have Personalised Evacuation Plans

  • Listen to and Engage with residents - they know their blocks and each other.

  • With Kent University Law School we have developed a Checklist for residents to self-assess fire risks in their blocks which is currently being piloted

The channel 5 studio is 2 floors underground in the lift at the ITN studios in Grays Inn Road and a bit like a dark warehouse. I was whisked into hair and make-up where I talked with the presenter then into the green room where I met the other panelists for the first time.

Sitting as a panel under the studio lights we watched the film for the first time and were then asked questions- not much chance to interact.

I was impressed that everyone involved from the receptionist, floor manager, the producer, make-up, researcher, reporter, presenter and camerawoman were all women. It’s great that our media provides these opportunities for women and hopefully reflects that perspective. Maybe this issue would not have been covered by a different team?

I valued and enjoyed the opportunity- here is how it really went!

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