Last week, the BBC carried a story about the problems faced by disabled residents living in flats if they need to evacuate their homes in a fire. One council tenant commented that she had received no communication from her local authority explaining what their evacuation policy is, so she decided to take matters into her own hands.
This lady has sensibly spoken to her neighbours and asked a group of them to help carry her out of the building if they need to escape the building in an emergency. The BBC investigated around 700 London blocks, speaking to residents about the arrangements for their buildings. They didn’t find a single evacuation lift.
At Ringley, since the Grenfell Tower fire, we have been following the work being done by the government on building safety and closely monitoring the leading industry analysis. We recently took part in RICS CPD events on the changes that are coming through as a result of the 2017 tragedy.
The challenge for the property sector is that rarely are regulations retrospective; as the BBC pointed out, there are few buildings with special fire evacuation lifts. The advice is always that standard lifts should not be used for evacuation in case of fire because, unless suitably adapted and protected, lift shafts act as a funnel, enabling smoke to spread through the building. Generally, electrics automatically shut down during a fire and fire fighting lifts run off of emergency generators, not from mains electricity.
There is now work going on in this area to identify whether adaptations to buildings could be made to incorporate purpose-built evacuation lifts, so the regulations around lift use may change in future. In 2018 the government instructed a review of the approved building regulations document relating to fire and we await the outcome with interest.
In the meantime, what we do at Ringley to look after our disabled residents as best we can, is to write to owners and residents asking them to let us know if they or their neighbours need ‘special assistance’ in case of an emergency evacuation. We database this information so that should such an emergency arise we can liaise with the fire department to enable them to help those that need it most.
So if you or one of your neighbours is worried about how they would escape the building in the worst case scenario, please call or email us to let us know. Our most important job is to keep residents safe.