The Grenfell Tower disaster unveiled huge policy, process, and regulatory oversight flaws. The investigations which followed the fire highlighted a series of failures that led to the incident.
An Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety after the Grenfell Tower fire and several new laws and regulations have been introduced in line with its recommendations. The changes are far-reaching. Tenants have been given more rights and avenues for recourse against developers. Stricter oversight has been imposed on the manufacture of construction materials. Plus, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has been named the new Building Safety Regulator (BSR).
But what, if anything, has been done about the Stay Put policy?
What Is The Stay Put Policy
A Stay Put policy, is a policy used in high-rise buildings during a fire. The policy recommends that residents not in the area affected remain in their flats with the windows and doors shut. (It is important to note that while the policy advises tenants to stay put, it is not a legal requirement.)
The Stay Put policy was first introduced in 1962 in the British Standards Institution (BSI) code of practice. The original policy stated, “The assumption should no longer be made that buildings must be evacuated if a fire occurs and high residential buildings should, therefore, be designed so that the occupants of floors above a dwelling which is on fire, may, if they choose, remain safely on their own floor.” There have been several revisions and amendments, but the ideas behind the policy remain the same.
Why Was The Stay Put Policy In Place?
There are a number of reasons Stay Put policies are used. Firstly, many high rises are simply not designed to accommodate full evacuations. High-rise buildings will typically have narrow staircases, as was the case at Grenfell, making evacuating difficult for residents. Furthermore, evacuating tenants may obstruct access for emergency services. With the right fire stopping in place, a fire will not spread to other flats but hallways may fill with smoke. Smoke inhalation could be harmful to evacuating residents.
Why Were Stay Put Policies Considered Safe?
At first glance, the reasons for a Stay Put policy do not offset the risk. However, the risk is usually much lower than you might think. Flats in high-rise buildings use passive fire protection and fire stopping to contain fires, preventing them from spreading to other areas of the building. This means other flats in the building are not at risk from the fire and residents are often safer remaining in their flat than moving into smoke-filled hallways.
What Effect Did The Stay Put Policy Have At Grenfell?
The Grenfell Tower used a Stay Put policy under the assumption that they had sufficient fire stopping. However, despite internal fire stopping measures, the fire spread through the cladding on the outside of the building. This meant many were not alerted to the fire until it was too late and were not given enough warning to evacuate.
What Are PEEPs?
The Stay Put policy also left those with disabilities and limited mobility without an evacuation plan.
The Grenfell Tower Inquiry recommended Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs) for high-rise residential buildings. PEEPs are evacuation plans for people with disabilities, limited mobility or sensory impairments. PEEPs preemptively assess and mitigate risks and create a planned response to fire alarms.
Are Stay Put Policies Still Used?
The Stay Put policy is still widely used for the reasons described earlier. The policy is deemed a safer option if a fire can be contained. Therefore the focus has been placed on changes to better contain fires. With events such as the Grenfell Tower fire and Bolton Cube fire the issue lies predominantly with the cladding used on the building. As a result of this, much of the attention following the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety has been centred on remedying the cladding crisis.
Passive Fire Protection
At London Fire Solutions we provide a “one-stop” service for all your passive fire protection requirements. We deliver surveying, manufacturing, installation, certification and maintenance for a range of fire protection solutions, including fire doors, screens, and fire alarm systems.
Speak to one of our fire safety experts to learn more.
Learn more about fire safety
To learn more about fire safety, passive fire protection and the response to the Grenfell Tower fire read our blog. Here are some recommended posts to start with: