Grenfell fire: Families enraged by plans to keep 'stay put' advice

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Grenfell Tower after the fireImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
An ongoing inquiry into the Grenfell tragedy recommended the 'stay put' policy be changed

Bereaved relatives of the Grenfell Tower fire have said they are "enraged" by government plans to keep the controversial 'stay put' policy.

The policy asks residents of most buildings to wait inside for rescue services rather than leaving in the event of a fire.

An ongoing inquiry into the Grenfell tragedy, which killed 72 people, recommended the policy be changed.

But new Home Office papers have set out reasons to retain the policy instead.

The Grenfell public inquiry published 46 recommendations in 2019, of which 21 have now been incorporated into law, according to the Home Office. Home Secretary Priti Patel also announced a new Fire Reform White Paper to incorporate further recommendations.

But the plans go against a recommendation from Phase 1 of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry - a report that was published in October 2019.

Image caption,
Home Secretary Priti Patel has announced a new Fire Reform White Paper

This report advises the government to place a legal obligation on building owners to outline Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs) for residents in the event of a fire.

A Home Office spokeswoman said it has instead launched a new consultation, in response to the previous consultation on PEEPs, to arrange an "alternative package", with one option being to tell firefighters where vulnerable people live and designate a resident to look after fire safety in the highest risk buildings.

Grenfell United, representing the bereaved families, described the response as "a disgrace" for putting disabled people at risk, despite their five-year battle to prevent another tragedy.

'They didn't stand a chance'

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

"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."

The Home Office has said it believes the cost of adopting the PEEPs policy would not be "practical" or "safe" to implement, claiming 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, meant "it would not be proportionate to mandate" the inquiry's recommendation.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "Our fire reforms will go further than ever before to protect vulnerable people.

"The Emergency Evacuation Information Sharing package we are consulting on would require those responsible for fire safety in higher risk buildings to properly assess the needs of the most vulnerable and take steps to mitigate any risks."

However, London Fire Brigade (LFB) 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."

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