Where were you on the night of the Grenfell fire three years ago this week?
The fire started in the early hours of the morning. I was not on duty that night so I was only aware of the tragic events when I heard the news on the radio on my way to work at around 7.30am. I can vividly remember my journey and listening with distress at the unfolding reports from the scene.
Where did you work at the time and what was your role?
I was a Senior Officer (Group Manager) at Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service and I worked at the Fire Service Headquarters. I was Head of Fire Safety & Regulation responsible for ensuring premises in Merseyside were compliant with fire safety law. I was also responsible for responding to and taking charge of large-scale fires and other emergencies.
Were you responsible for fire safety checks in high rises at the time?
Yes. There were over 200 High Rise Residential Blocks (above 10 floors) in our area and Fire Service Inspectors conducted safety inspections in the communal areas. Local Authority Housing Officers also carried out checks in flats and communal areas.
What were your first thoughts that morning?
My first thoughts were with the families and friends who were affected by this devastating fire. As a Fire Officer with over 25 years’ service, I was fully aware of the dreadful consequences caused by house fires.
Even so, I was truly shocked by the number of lives lost at Grenfell and how this could possibly have happened.
I also thought of the incredibly difficult circumstances in which my counterparts in London were faced with when dealing with this catastrophic event.
The laws around fire safety for social housing are changing – what will this mean for the Trust?
Peaks & Plains already has extensive measures in place to ensure Fire Safety compliance. The proposed changes in legislation and findings from the Grenfell Inquiry mean that the Trust will need to adapt – particularly in relation to its high-rises.
The legal changes will require us to look closely at roles and responsibilities and how we communicate with our residents. There will be a new dedicated regulator too.
What can our tenants do to help you to keep them safe?
- Make sure you know the emergency evacuation procedures for your building.
- Keep exits and corridors clear from obstructions.
- Make sure doors to stairways are not damaged or faulty. If they are, report it straight away.
- Close all your internal doors at night to prevent the spread of fire.
- Don’t start cooking if you are very tired or have drunk a lot of alcohol. Never use chip pans, use oven chips instead.
- If you smoke, make sure you put cigarettes out properly and don’t smoke in bed or when you are sleepy.
- Check your smoke alarms regularly.
This is a new role for you. What are you looking forward to getting stuck into first?
Enhancing fire safety awareness and knowledge. That includes my new colleagues, our tenants, contractors and suppliers.
My aim is to get everyone to be fire safety aware so that together we can all reduce the likelihood of a fire occurring.
It's important to us that you know exactly what to do in the case of a fire. You'll more information on our dedicated fire safety page.