Rugby council scraps Grenfell style "stay-put" tower block fire policy

Biart Place.
Biart Place.

Rugby council has abandoned its Grenfell Tower style "stay put" fire policy for its multi-storey blocks after surveys revealed the blocks may no longer be able to completely contain fires.

Residents at the council’s multi-storey blocks, including Rounds Gardens and Biart Place, are being asked to change how they evacuate their blocks in the event of a fire or other emergency, in new fire safety procedures announced today, Tuesday March 13.

Since the blocks were built in the 1960s the council had operated a “stay-put” procedure, aimed at reducing harm to residents by keeping a fire within a fire-proof compartment.

The "stay-put" policy drew wide criticism last year after it was used for two hours during the Grenfell Fire tragedy, which is believed to have killed 71 people.

New information provided as a result of intrusive survey works carried out last year now means that the council cannot be sure that all of the building will operate as expected in the event of a fire or explosion.

After consulting with the fire service and building construction experts including the Building Research Establishment, the council has introduced the new evacuation policy to keep residents safe.

Copies of the council’s new fire evacuation procedures are being hand delivered to all residents today, and council officers will visit all residents to make sure that they understand what to do should the alarm sound.

A spokesman for Rugby Borough Council said: “The multi-storey blocks have stood safely since they were built around fifty years ago, and all previous fires within the blocks have been contained as designed.

"However, having removed some of the concrete within some of the flats, we cannot be completely sure that the blocks were built as designed and will perform as we expect in the event of a fire or explosion.

“The risk of fire or explosion is substantially reduced because there is no gas supply, and portable gas appliances are banned under the tenancy agreement. However, under the circumstances it is absolutely right to prioritise residents’ safety and we are asking all residents to evacuate their block immediately, in a calm and safe manner, should they hear the alarm.”

The council commissioned extensive survey work on all of the multi-storey blocks in late 2016, with further more detailed surveys over the last six months, to establish their potential future lifespan and investment requirements.

The results of the surveys will be incorporated into a report to councillors that will be considered at a meeting of the council to be held on April 24.

The report will outline options for potential refurbishment or redevelopment of the sites. The background reports will be published after the meeting.