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Emergency evacuation sharing

SIA has recently responded to a government consultation on emergency evacuation information sharing

The consultation follows the government rejecting a recommendation from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry to implement personal emergency evacuation plans (PEEPs) for all high-rise building residents who are not able to evacuate alone in an emergency. The recommendation, that everybody in this position should have their own personalised plan for how to escape a building in the event of a fire or an emergency, was made because a staggering 40% of the people who died in the Grenfell Tower disaster in 2019 were disabled. It was clear to the Inquiry that strong measures had to be taken to ensure the safety of disabled people in the future.

The government however stated that PEEPS were not to be implemented based on ‘proportionality, practicality and safety’. Instead, they are suggesting emergency evacuation information sharing, which clearly gives more weight to available resources of landlords and building managers, and less weight on the safety of disabled people.

In our response to the consultation, we strongly made the point that spinal cord injured people living in high-rise buildings deserve the right to a full evacuation plan, as recommended by the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.

The government’s plans for emergency evacuation information sharing don’t go far enough because:

  • they’re only available to residents of older tower blocks and don’t cover new blocks with a ‘stay put’ strategy.
  • the onus is wholly on the disabled individual to request a ‘person-centred fire risk assessment’, with no requirement for building managers or landlords to actively learn who is disabled in their building.
  • the only information to be shared with the Fire and Rescue service is the flat number of the disabled resident, with no information about what equipment may be needed to help them swiftly escape.
  • too much of the costs for necessary adaptations fall on disabled residents, instead of those who own the buildings. This is particularly unfair when disabled facilities grants are so limited and means tested.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on what the government brings forward after this consultation. We will continue to press for all spinal cord injured people living in high-rise buildings to have a statutory right to a full personal emergency evacuation plan so that they can escape from buildings in a swift and safe manner. This should be organised at no extra cost to the resident and should be part of the duty of care that landlords and building managers have to residents.

We cannot have a repeat of the tragedy of Grenfell Tower. Spinal cord injured people do not deserve to be further disabled by laws and regulations that prioritise the needs of high-rise landlords over the right to life of high-rise residents.