Greater Manchester overhauling fire safety

Greater Manchester overhauling fire safety

THE FIRE service has set out its plans to ‘develop a world class approach’ to fire safety in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) stated that the plans include a feasibility study into sprinkler retrofitting in high rise residential buildings, a ‘consistent’ fire safety approach, and for GMFRS to ‘be consulted at all stages of a building’s life cycle’. The proposals have been put forward by Greater Manchester’s High Rise Task Force to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, with the task force set up by Mayor Andy Burnham to ‘provide fire safety reassurance’ to residents.

This comes after GMFRS has completed inspections of over 500 residential high rises in the area to ‘ensure they comply with fire safety regulations’, working with housing providers, local authorities and the private sector to ensure ‘all buildings receive the right fire safety advice’. It also cited National Fire Chiefs Council data that showed sprinklers ‘are the most effective way’ to ensure suppression or extinguishing of fires before the fire service arrives.

Other members of the task force include landlords of tower blocks in private and public ownership alongside local authority representatives and specialist officers. Its work will inform a GMFRS response to the Grenfell Tower inquiry, and will submit evidence to the independent review of building regulations.

Paul Dennett, mayor of Salford City and lead of the task force, stated: ‘Since the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, Greater Manchester has taken swift action to reassure all our residents their homes are safe as quickly as possible. This is thanks to the commitment of the fire and rescue service and support from housing providers and local authorities who all share a common goal in prioritising the safety and care of local people.

‘As we continue to ensure the safety of our residents, we are also working to make sure our voice is heard nationally and that steps are made so that a tragedy like Grenfell never happens again. In Greater Manchester, that means developing a world-class approach to fire safety which places the expertise of our fire and rescue service at its heart.

‘Greater Manchester has not shied away from addressing the fire safety challenges highlighted following the Grenfell Tower tragedy but we also need Government to step up and provide the funding and resources we need to swiftly and effectively carry out this work, particularly around the replacement of cladding systems and retrofitting of sprinkler systems. Public bodies and emergency services are already struggling as a result of budget cuts and austerity; Government needs to act now to remove any barriers to keeping people safe.’

David Acton, chair of the Fire Committee, added: ‘The Grenfell Tower tragedy marks a defining moment in relation to fire safety in high rise buildings across the country, and it is clear that there have been conflicts and confusion around fire safety legislation and building regulations. That is why we are proposing a Greater Manchester standard of fire safety, putting the safety of buildings and those living and working in them at the centre.

‘In particular, we believe that the case to fit sprinkler systems in high rise flats, as part of a package of fire safety measures, has been overwhelmingly made. There is clear evidence that sprinklers can be effective in stopping fires spreading and putting them out, ultimately saving lives. As part of the work of the Task Force we will be exploring the retrofitting of sprinklers in existing blocks by undertaking a feasibility study.’