For the umpteenth time, a Grenfell towering inferno will not happen here

Sunday Post

The Sunday Post today peddles the same inaccurate scare story based on the testimony of one family which, it seems, contains no experts on the subject and uses that to accuse the SNP Scottish Government of failing to make our tower blocks safe in the wake of the Grenfell disaster.

As before, they ignore the clear facts indicating that a Grenfell cannot happen here because of our more strict building regulations but also ignoring the evidence from a fire only two weeks before which was contained within one floor and had no casualties:

According to BBC Scotland earlier two weeks ago:

Residents of a multi-storey block of flats in Glasgow had to be evacuated after a fire broke out on the 17th floor. Fire crews were called to the block on Lincoln Avenue in the Knightswood area of the city at 04:08. Residents were safely removed from the building by the fire service and there were no casualties. A total of nine fire appliances attended the incident which took about five hours to bring under full control. A spokeswoman for Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said: “Operations control mobilised nine appliances to Lincoln Avenue where the fire was affecting the 17th floor of the multi-storey block of flats.” The spokeswoman said residents from the 17th and 18th floors were removed and the fire has been extinguished.

No towering inferno; how did that happen we wonder?

Apologies to regulars but I see from my Twitter poll this morning that 20% only started with TuS in 2021.

Onlookers wondered why the fire did not spread to other floors. Here are some reasons we posted last year:

The Chimney Effect

This cannot happen in Scotland

As I understand it, it is not so much the flammability of the material used as the construction of the external cladding to deny the spread of fire via a chimney effect.

Reader Gordon Darge wrote for us in January 2020:

As a chartered architect in Scotland for 40 years I can confirm that the Building Regulations Technical Standards Scotland have for two decades required cavity fire barriers

2.4 Cavities
Mandatory Standard
Standard 2.4
Every building must be designed and constructed in such a way that in the event of an outbreak of fire within the building, the spread of fire and smoke within cavities in its structure and fabric is inhibited.

This includes for example, around the head, jambs and sill of an external door or window opening, at all floor levels and building corners etc. to prevent the spread of fire in building cavities. This would have prevented the spread of the fire at Grenfell Tower.

This is difficult and expensive to achieve and I can only guess that in England they did not follow the Scottish model because Westminster and the Tories were led by the vested interests of big business, property developers and large construction firms.

For anyone wanting more info see:

https://www.gov.scot/publications/building-standards-technical-handbook-2019-domestic/2-fire/2-4-cavities/

And in December 2019, we were able to report:

In a parliamentary question at Holyrood on Monday, David Stewart (Highlands and Islands) (Scottish Labour) asked the Scottish Government what plans it has to ban combustible materials on the outside of high-rise or high-risk buildings.

The answer was reassuring contrast to the lack of comparable action in England:

From 1 May 2005, Scottish building regulations have required cladding on domestic buildings with any storey over 18 metres to be non-combustible or to pass a large-scale fire test (BS 8414 and BR 135).

The Scottish Government have just completed a review of building regulations. Advice from the national and international panel of experts was that there was no need to change mandatory standard 2.7 that requires fire spread on the external walls of a building to be inhibited. Guidance that came into force on 1 October embraces a range of measures to improve fire safety which will make Scotland’s high-rise buildings even safer. These include:

• Further restricting the use of combustible materials on taller buildings, applying provisions that previously applied to buildings over 18 metres to all buildings over 11 metres to align with fire-fighting from the ground;

• Tighter controls over the combustibility of cladding systems on hospitals, residential care buildings, entertainment and assembly buildings regardless of building height;

• Introducing evacuation sound alerts, floor and dwelling indicator signs and two escape stairs in all new high-rise domestic buildings.

We have also made a commitment to introduce a mandatory requirement to install sprinkler systems in all new build flats, certain multi-occupancy dwellings and social housing from 2021.

And before that:

  1. From the Scottish Government news website in February 2019:

‘New rules to reduce deaths in household fires have been announced today, with improved standards introduced for fire and smoke alarms in Scottish homes.  The improved standards will mean every home in the country must have a smoke alarm fitted in the living room or lounge, and in circulation spaces such as hallways and landings. The changes also mean every kitchen must have a heat alarm, and the alarms will have to be interlinked so they can be heard throughout the property. There must also be a carbon monoxide alarm where there are fixed combustion appliances. The new rules mean the standard which currently applies to private rented property and newbuilds is being extended to all homes in Scotland. The regulations come after a consultation carried out following the tragic events at Grenfell Tower in London in June 2017.’

https://news.gov.scot/news/new-fire-safety-standards-for-scottish-homes

  1. From BBC UK News in December 2018:

‘Fire safety checks across England have fallen by 42% over the last seven years, according to the new watchdog for fire and rescue services. HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services says brigades do a good job in emergencies, but amid cuts have reduced “vital” prevention work. The watchdog said the number of audits carried out by firefighters dropped from 84,575 in 2010-11 to 49,423 in 2017-18.’https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-46627987?ns_mchannel=social&ocid=socialflow_twitter&ns_source=twitter&ns_campaign=bbcnews

  1. From the Scottish Government, published in August 2018:

‘The number of fire safety audits carried out in 2015/16 was 9,829. Most of the premises audited by the SFRS have relatively adequate fire safety measures and are categorised as ‘broadly compliant’ (9,180 audits: 93%). While 79% (7,779 audits) of the premises audited have average or low levels of relative risk.’

In Scotland 2015/16, 9 827 safety audits were carried out. England has 10 times the population and so, all things being equal, might have been expected to have seen 98 270 fire safety audits. However, in 2017/18, England saw only 49 423 fire safety audits, just over half the number. Fire safety audits in Scotland are thus almost twice as common, per head of population, in Scotland as in England.

Why? Cost-cutting Tory local authorities? Cost-cutting Tory central government?

  1. Two earlier reports perhaps still of interest here:

‘Stricter [fire] safety rules leave Scotland out of danger’ The English media spot the difference. Did BBC Scotland?

‘High rise fires in Scotland at lowest level in eight years

Sunday Post

7 thoughts on “For the umpteenth time, a Grenfell towering inferno will not happen here

  1. Disappointed in the Post. It has improved its journalistic standards recently, but this is a descent into Hootsmon/Herod territory*.

    * “News we found just lying outside the Hi Jack Bunker”!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. The Scottish Fire Service put out fires successfully. Increased fire alarms. Exit routes secure. People know the drill and exit routes. Increased information.

    The Sunday Post. Unionist owner. Labour politician wife. Millionaires. Labour did not support MUP or smoking ban. There are less fires because of MUP and smoking ban. Less people smoking. Less chip pans. Or fry ups. under the influence of alcohol. Less coal fires etc. Labour/unionist policies increase the risk of fire. Fire of the vanities.

    Like

  3. The chimney effect remains across many buildings with cladding – both flammable and inert, which have poor or no fire containment barriers, and also no ‘sealed’ inner wall, which is a key detail on the designed function of ‘rain screen’ cladding. Water permeating through the inner wall, and subsequent ‘fudged’ fix on one building was an indication that the inner wall was not airtight. The breaches from the cladding void through the inner wall & window frames were a factor in the spread of fire and smoke into further flats at Grenfell. A smoke test would be a fairly simple way to check compliance (filling the void between cladding and inner wall with a coloured smoke and if it appears inside…)

    A major detail in survival when fires break out in a high rise building is that there are sound door seals and arrangement that preserve smoke free places of safety – this means that the emergency stairs – usually combined with the concrete lift and services core are a sealed off from all other areas, save for self closing doors that can be closed both by springs, and a small positive pressure (1-2 mbar) from the clean air side. Those in such buildings also need to understand how to get to a place of safety on each floor.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Those whose job it is to ensure fire safety know all this full well from the Fire Brigade to the Building Inspectorate. The Inquiry has looked to the Fire Brigade, the Building Regs, the cladding manufacturer etc., but the root of the Grenfell tragedy is politics and a Tory chumocracy in Kensington.

      From Johnson’s “more efficient” LFB (when Mayor) not having a usable fire main, to standard procedures and checks bypassed as “red tape” in the design and construction phase, Grenfell was an accident waiting to happen.

      Like

  4. The fire service did not successfully put out the fire at Grenfell. A fridge appliance. The fire reignited.

    The instructions given were negligent. To stay instead of getting out quickly. A total failure of multiple decisions. The Tories did not introduced a Bill for tighter building regulations. Tory MP’s are landlords and landowners. Cameron embezzling £Millions of public monies. Along with the rest of them. A total shambles of chaos.

    Like

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