I’ve had someone from China ask me the following question on the Quora website recently:
“If it were in China, all government officials in the same line of management would be fired. CEOs of the estate management company and the refurbish company would be in prison. The Mayor would have to go. Will the British government be able to equally accountable to its people?”
I answered back my response on Quora and will also share it here on my blog:
I was a firefighter with London Fire Brigade for 25 years and in the last few years of my career I was temporarily promoted to Watch Manager in Fire Safety Regulation.
The UK’s regulatory framework for tall residential buildings is intended to prevent the spread of fire between floors and between apartments. The law clearly sets out that the person responsible for the building has a duty to undertake a fire risk assessment and put in place adequate and appropriate fire precautions or “bring in a competent fire risk assessor to undertake it. It’s difficult to pinpoint who the responsible person is for the fire at Grenfell Tower at this stage. If the cladding was to blame for spreading the fire, then the firm that provided the cladding ( possibly the CEO ) may face prosecution. That firm was Harley Curtain Wall, and they went into administration two years ago. There will also be questions about how the building was built and renovated. Rydon Construction refurbished the building in works that finished last year. Then there are other factors such as adequate fire exits, means of escape, fire alarm systems, ventilation, fire suppression, etc. A controversial ‘stay put’ policy was in place at Grenfell Tower where residents were advised to stay in their apartment in the event of a fire. Also, Fire Officers have been campaigning to UK government for the installation of sprinklers to be compulsory in buildings such as Grenfell Tower just as they do in the US. The higher the building, the more the risk and the need for robust fire safety measures especially in sleeping accommodations.
Politically, The London Fire Brigade is currently overseen by the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) which is made up of local Councillors, London Assembly members and representatives of the mayor. The authority was due to be abolished this year and the London Mayor was to have gained direct control of the London Fire Brigade. However, the London Mayor Sadiq Khan has been told he’ll have to wait until at least next April because of the recent UK general election delaying the process. Currently, in order to avoid deadlock between LFEPA and City Hall, the last Labour government gave the mayor the power to overrule and ‘direct’ the authority to follow his instructions. That power remained unused until 2013 when Boris Johnson used it to order a consultation on plans to close fire stations and axe fire engines in the wake of cuts in both City Hall and UK Government grants. This has had an effect on firefighting resources in London and the UK in general putting lives at risk.
Investigators are now probing any criminal offences that may have taken place and it is possible that the company which managed Grenfell Tower and the contractors who carried out the recent renovations could face criminal prosecution.