The latest Grenfell revelations may have exposed a national scandal
An investigation by HuffPost has revealed a huge problem with fire regulations in the UK. But the media outlet only painted a portion of the story. And the implications could turn into a national scandal.
72 people were killed in the Grenfell Tower fire on 14 June 2017. A report for the public inquiry said that, among other things, evidence “strongly supports” the idea that the tower’s cladding played a role in the fire’s spread. Another report said combustible material in the tower’s windows and exposed gas pipes had the same effect. But it also pointed to another possible reason the fire spread so ferociously. This was that none of the fire doors in the tower met current regulatory standards.
Fire doors “contributed to the disaster”
As HuffPost reported:
A public inquiry… stated that poorly performing Manse Mastador [door] products contributed to the disaster…
In July, the government announced fire doors made by five different companies had been taken off the market following tests on the same doors used at Grenfell.
The Manse Masterdor specifically was found to withstand fire for just 15 minutes. It should offer protection for half an hour.
But it’s not just Grenfell. The issue of dangerous fire doors is looking like a national scandal.
A national problem?
HuffPost revealed a potential catastrophe via Freedom of Information requests (FOIs) to local authorities. It discovered that there are at least 25,000 fire doors in use in social housing that are the same as five types used in Grenfell Tower. HuffPost said that many councils are aware of the hazard. Some are waiting on government guidance, which is yet to materialise. Others say they are unaware of how dangerous certain types of doors are. Some refused to answer HuffPost‘s FOIs saying separate companies were responsible for property management.
Meanwhile, Inside Housing revealed that 71% of 1,584 tower blocks it checked had faulty fire doors. It also noted that the regulatory system for fire doors in the UK was “light touch”.
A potential scandal
But what HuffPost and Inside Housing didn’t consider was that council-owned social housing is only a portion of the total number in England. Therefore, the implications could be even greater.
As of March 2017, just over 1.6m social homes were owned and operated by local authorities. The greatest number, more than 2.4m, was from private providers, often housing associations. In Grenfell, evidence emerged of one housing association not maintaining its fire doors correctly. And this could point to the scale of the problem with fire doors being much greater than HuffPost revealed.
The current legal requirements for fire doors are complex. But it’s a major concern that councils found so many dangerous fire doors in their own social housing. Because with 60% of social housing being outside council ownership, the implications of HuffPost‘s research could be huge.
Featured image via Paula Peters – Twitter
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