I have observed the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the Hackitt Report and Phase 1 Inquiry from both human and professional perspectives.
In that time, I got to know some of the survivors and their advocates very well.
I spoke about fire and life safety record-keeping at The Tall Building Fire Safety Conference and the Housing Quality Network Digitising Governance and Compliance Forum.
I tried repeatedly to engage the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government with an instantly available technology solution. A solution that can address many of the failings identified in the Grenfell Inquiry report. But they just do not want to talk about solutions.
Simply put, every High Rise Residential Building (HRRB) needs a Digital System of Record (DSoR). Landlords would be asked nicely, compelled, regulated, or forced to publish essential fire and life safety documentation to the Building Safety Register. Key documents within the register could include:
- Evacuation Strategy
- Fire Risk Assessment
- Floor Plans
These live, digital assets could then be securely shared with stakeholders. These might include Emergency Services, Residents, Regulators and Service Providers. Being in a digital form they would be tracked, analysed and continuously improved. This level of transparency would compel landlords to do their jobs properly and take ownership of keeping residents safe.
Here is a blog I wrote about the Digital System of Record on the 2nd anniversary of Grenfell in June 2019: https://trackmyrisks.com/news/article/second-anniversary-grenfell-tower-tragedy/
What did the Grenfell Inquiry have to say about data sharing and record-keeping?
- There was no contingency plan for the evacuation of Grenfell Tower
- The LFB supposedly maintains an operational risk database (ORD) for buildings in London. It also has a risk assessment policy (PN800) accessible by all operational firefighters at an incident. However, the entry on the Grenfell Tower ORD contained almost nothing of any use to the fire incident commander. The information contained in the ORD was many years out of date and did not reflect the changes made by the refurbishment
- In some cases, basic information relating to the tower held by the LFB was wrong and in others, it was missing altogether
- The TMO had its own emergency plan, but it was not activated and was, in any case, fifteen years out of date
- Delay in obtaining offsite building plans, not on the LFB’s ORD and not available until around 08:00 is ridiculous
What legal changes does Grenfell Inquiry recommend in relation to data sharing and record-keeping?
- The owner and manager of every high-rise residential building be required by law to provide their local fire and rescue service with information about the design of its external walls together with details of the materials of which they are constructed and to inform the fire and rescue service of any material changes made to them
- To provide their local fire and rescue services with up-to-date plans in both paper and electronic form of every floor of the building identifying the location of key fire safety systems
- Ensure that the building contains a premises information box, the contents of which must include a copy of the up-to-date floor plans and information about the nature of any lift intended for use by the fire and rescue services.*(See note)
- I also recommend, insofar as it is not already the case, that all fire and rescue services be equipped to receive and store electronic plans and to make them available to incident commanders and control room managers
- That the owner and manager of every high-rise residential building be required by law to carry out regular inspections of any lifts that are designed to be used by firefighters in an emergency and to report the results of such inspections to their local fire and rescue service at monthly intervals
- The owner and manager of every high-rise residential building be required by law to carry out regular tests of the mechanism which allows firefighters to take control of the lifts and to inform their local fire and rescue service at monthly intervals that they have done so
- Owners and managers of every high-rise residential building be required by law to draw up and keep under regular review evacuation plans, copies of which are to be provided in electronic and paper form to their local fire and rescue service and placed in an information box on the premises *(See note)
*Note: I strongly disagree with the concept of the Property Information Box. The concept of putting life-critical paper documents in a box within a burning building makes no sense.
The report clearly shows that all stakeholders responsible for the safe management and occupation of HRRBs need better communication, robust processes and oversight. The report does not, however, give any ideas as to how this can be achieved across 12,500+ legacy HRRBs.
How this can be achieved is simple and available immediately. MHCLG should roll out the Building Safety Register (full disclosure: the Building Safety Register runs on the TrackMyRisks platform). And they have been repeatedly offered this at No Cost and with immediate effect.
I have even told MHCLG that they can view our offer as an interim measure until they build their own system. Yet they still refuse to talk. So, will Secretary of State Robert Jenrick follow through on his promise in the House of Commons to implement all recommendations in the Grenfell Inquiry Report? And if he does, when will that be?
If you would like to get involved with the Building Safety Register or see a demo please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 07463 629132.
And finally, let us not forget the words of Dame Judith Hackitt
“You should be doing this because it’s the right thing to do. Not because the rules and legislation make you do it.”
Despite repeated attempts at engagement and this meaningless response received in July 2019, we still await decisive action to be taken: