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Grenfell – the inquiry continues

So far, Phase 1 of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry has done its utmost to discover what happened on the night of the fire, with the aim of preventing such significant loss of life in another high-rise building (HRB) fire. Phase 2 will see investigators tasked with unraveling an “honest and complete account” of the events in the run-up to the fire.

Already several recommendations have become clear, that ‘Can be made both in the way in which high-rise residential buildings are designed, constructed, approved and managed and in the way in which fire and rescue services respond to fires in such buildings.’

As Phase 1 revolved around the actions on the fateful night, the recommendations focus largely around the emergency services, with the London Fire Brigade’s response to the tragedy highlighted in particular.

However, the Inquiry has had to touch on the main cause of the rapid spread of fire - the use of combustible materials (ACM rainscreen cladding and combustible insulation) in the external walls of the tower. It has observed that panels with polyethylene cores on the exterior of HRB’s should be removed as soon as possible and replaced with materials of limited combustibility. The Inquiry also noted that those remedial works have not happened at a fast enough pace and should be pursued as vigorously as possible. Also, that particular attention should be paid to decorative features composed of combustible materials such as architectural crowns.

Interestingly, when it comes to fire sprinklers, Phase 1 has not investigated the impact a sprinkler system could have had on the original fire in Flat 16. Sprinklers will however become an important component of Phase 2. 

Phase 2 will focus on the refurbishment of Grenfell and the decision to add flammable cladding over the tower’s concrete exterior. Other main areas of investigation include: 

  • The circumstances in which the deceased died. 
  • The decisions relating to the design of the refurbishment and the choice of materials. 
  • The regime for testing and certifying the reaction to fire of materials intended for use in construction. 
  • The design and choice of materials. 
  • The performance of fire doors in the tower, in particular, whether they complied with relevant regulations, their maintenance and the reasons why some of the self-closing devices do not appear to have worked. 
  • The organisation and management of the LFB, in particular in relation to the formulation of policy in the light of experience, the arrangements for training firefighters and control room staff, and the arrangements for sharing information about the particular problems associated with fighting fires in high-rise buildings. 
  • The warnings of potential fire hazards given by the local community.
  • The authorities’ response to the disaster.

 

The CIPHE is one of a number of organisations hoping to see the Phase 2 Inquiry recommend that fire sprinkler systems should be installed by law in all existing HRB’s.