The fire that happened at the Grenfell Tower in London in June of last year took the lives of 71 people and injured many more. It started in a fridge-freezer in one flat and that fire was extinguished quickly by the London Fire Brigade. It was just a few minutes after the initial fire was put out that flames were noticed on the outside of the building. Those flames spread at an alarming rate, engulfing the building and causing 71 deaths from 23 of the 129 flats. It has been concluded that the cladding, which is used to provide a degree of thermal insulation and to improve the appearance of buildings, was inferior and failed fire safety tests conducted after the fire. The insulation installed behind the cladding was even more flammable. There were other fire safety hazards in the building, most of which had been documented by the tenants before the inferno in June.

East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service, as well as other area Fire & Rescue Services, are working closely with local authorities, landlords and other groups to review data about high rise properties. Joint visits and inspections are taking place to ensure that not only the cladding on buildings is fire-safe, but also to ensure fire safety regulations are being followed. Updated advice is being distributed to tenants of high rise buildings. The East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service has prioritised residential high rise buildings which they believe have been renovated in the last ten years. They have inspected these in order to update records and provide any necessary reassurance to residents. Where possible the landlord or responsible person was present for the visit. All other high rise blocks are being considered for inspection on a case by case basis.

Should any buildings be discovered with this type of cladding in the future then a full evaluation of the situation will be undertaken with the landlord and appropriate remedial measures taken. They have also been liaising with local health managers to offer advice on how they can meet their legal responsibilities with regards to fire safety. Advice for responsible persons of a high rise building include, but are not limited to: compartmentation of the building, automatic fire detection, fire alarms, means of escape and sprinkler systems.

Advice to tenants is to be proactive. Tenants are encouraged to take preventative measures in their flat, which could include a bedtime check to ensure the cooker is off, unplug unnecessary appliances, ensure all cigarettes and candles are put out completely, turn off heaters or put fireguards up, and to keep exits clear. Closing doors can also stop a fire from spreading throughout the flat. Smoke alarms are a must and they should be tested on a regular basis. Their batteries should be changed on a regular basis as well.

If there is a fire in your high rise building, there are things you need to keep in mind and prepare for. High-rise flats are designed to contain fires within a flat or compartment while communal corridors and stairs provide escape routes. Get familiar with the escape routes in your building and even use them occasionally so that they will feel familiar. If there is a fire in your own flat, you should leave your flat and ensure to close all of the doors. Sound the fire alarm and call 999 as soon as you are in a safe place. If there is smoke in the corridor, crawl along the floor where the air should be clearer. If there is a fire in another flat in your building, then you are usually safer to stay in your flat unless the heat or smoke from the fire is affecting you. If you stay put you should still immediately call 999.  It is important to remember that this advice may change and you should follow the instructions of firefighters when they arrive on scene. Taking preventative measures in your flat will help all others, including yourself, to prevent a fire or be prepared if there ever is a fire.