Fire safety assessment system ‘pointless’

Professor Arnold Dix has said that the current system to assess fire safety of high-rise buildings in the UK is ‘pointless’.

The independent disaster investigator, who conducted the post-assessment of the Lakanal House fire which saw six people killed in 2009, said that fire risk assessments (FRAs) were simply a ‘box-ticking exercise’, citing the Grenfall Tower fire as an example of the system not working.

Of the 21 tower blocks managed by Kensington and Chelsea Council, which includes Grenfell Tower, all were rated as having a medium FRA rating.

The fire at Grenfall Tower, thought to have spread because of cladding on the outside of the high rise buildings, has killed at least 79 people, but was not deemed high-risk during inspections in 2016. The incident has prompted the government to encourage councils across the country to carry out FRAs, while the London Fire Brigade has requested all housing providers to also carry out FRAs.

However, Dixon has warned that FRAs do not look inside individual properties and do not analyse how the building was originally designed to evacuate people - meaning it is like ‘having a full health check and only checking the tonsils’. he also commented that FRAs do not consider how many people live in the building, the possibility of high fire-risk appliances, the possibility of highly flammable extra beds and the ability of people to leave their homes quickly.

The Fire Protection Association has also reiterated that FRA compliance is only a guarantee of ‘evacuation before collapse’ in the event of a fire.