Fire safety: protecting local authority tower blocks

Posted by Conor Logan on 13/09/12 10:20

Lakanal House FireThe fire that broke out at Lakanal House in 2009 with tragic consequences put the spotlight on the issue of fire safety in local authority tower blocks.

This is an example of a building that met the safety regulations in force at the time of its construction. Knowledge of the behaviour of fire and smoke in this type of building has since progressed, and if Lakanal House had been brought up to current safety standards the tragedy might have been averted.

Consider how many other such developments exist out there: how can we ensure that old tower blocks meet current safety standards and minimise the risk of the tragic events of 2009?

Moving forward

As an industry, what procedures can we adopt to avoid such appalling events? How can we ensure landlords and building managers of old tower blocks revisit the fundamental fire strategies for these properties? Could the answer be to extend mandatory periodic risk assessments in residential tower blocks, as is the case for commercial buildings? Should these efforts to ensure old tower blocks are appropriately protected be led by industry or legislation?

We have seen the consequences of insufficient fire protection at Lakanal House, but what lessons have we learnt? What are we, as an industry, doing about it and how is legislation dealing with the issue? What more can we do?

In my opinion, while there is no single universal solution for ageing local authority housing stock, the introduction of smoke control to common landlord areas is an affordable improvement that could offer immediate benefit to the safety of tenants without excessive personal disruption. What do you think?

Of course, any improvement should be considered in conjunction with all the fire safety provisions of the building to ensure safety in the event of a fire is maximised.

Conor Logan Conor Logan is a Technical Manager of Colt UK, Smoke and Climate Control Division. Conor designs innovative smoke control and HVAC systems and is also Chairman of the Smoke Control Association.

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Topics: Fire Containment, Regulations, Residential Buildings