Post-Grenfell Evacuation Plans To Protect Disabled Rejected By Government

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Messages of condolence are seen on temporary hoardings and on the covered remains of the Grenfell Tower in January. (Photo: Toby Melville via Reuters)
Messages of condolence are seen on temporary hoardings and on the covered remains of the Grenfell Tower in January. (Photo: Toby Melville via Reuters)

Messages of condolence are seen on temporary hoardings and on the covered remains of the Grenfell Tower in January. (Photo: Toby Melville via Reuters)

The government has been condemned for rejecting the Grenfell Tower enquiry’s call to provide a legally-binding evacuation plan for all disabled tenants of high-rise buildings if a fire broke out.

Some 15 of the 72 people who died in the blaze five years ago were disabled, and a recommendation from the public enquiry – published in October 2019 – called for the introduction of personal emergency evacuation plans (PEEPs) for people who would struggle to get out of a burning building.

It said that “the owner and manager of every high-rise residential building be required by law to prepare personal emergency evacuation plans (PEEPs) for all residents whose ability to self-evacuate may be compromised (such as persons with reduced mobility or cognition)”.

But in a consultation document published on Wednesday, the Home Office said it believed the cost of adopting the PEEPs policy would not be “proportionate” and that it would not be “practical” or “safe” to implement.

On the issue of “safety”, the document added that attempts to evacuate the “very mobility impaired” could “slow the evacuation of other residents”.

Instead, the Home Office said it plans to keep the controversial “stay put” policy – meaning that residents of most buildings should wait for rescue services rather than leaving in the event of a fire.

The department said the “stay put” policy is in place for buildings which are “designed to give appropriate protection” from fire so it is “generally safer” for residents to wait for emergency services to rescue them.

It said this knowledge, combined with safety reforms in the Building Safety Bill means “it would not be proportionate to mandate” the inquiry’s recommendation.

The Home Office has said it has launched a new consultation, in response to the previous consultation on PEEPs, to arrange an “alternative package of proposals to support the fire safety of residents whose ability to self-evacuate may be compromised”.

A spokesperson said one proposal is for designated fire safety residents in the highest risk buildings, and for fire services to be provided with up-to-date information on where the most vulnerable residents live within buildings.

But bereaved relatives of the Grenfell blaze have said they are “enraged” by the government plans.

Grenfell United, which represents people affected by the 2017 tragedy, described the response as “a disgrace” for putting disabled people at risk.

The group said: “We are enraged at the government, whose sole focus continues to be profit and not public safety.

“We’ve fought for years to create a legacy for our 72 loved ones, and to prevent another Grenfell.

“But five years on, the government has reverted back to the same policy in place before Grenfell.

“This policy resulted in 41% of those living with disabilities dying at Grenfell.

“It left them with no personal evacuation plan and no means of escape.

“They didn’t stand a chance. This report is a disgrace.

“Disabled people have the right to leave their homes safely.

“The government must implement the recommendation from the Phase 1 report of the Grenfell Inquiry and ensure personal evacuation plans for disabled residents.”

London Fire Brigade commissioner Andy Roe described PEEPs as a “key recommendation” from the inquiry and urged the government to prioritise it.

He said: “It’s vitally important that people feel safe in their own homes and have certainty about how to leave their building in the event of a fire or other emergency.

“Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs) were a key recommendation from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry and we want to work with government, communities and other partners to make progress on evacuation plans.”

The Home Office also said it will “improve the professionalism of the fire and rescue service through modern workforce practices” and “potentially” establish a College of Fire and Rescue.

The inquiry published 46 recommendations in 2019, of which 21 have now been incorporated into law, according to the Home Office.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

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