Lakanal House Had No Fire Risk Assessment

There was no fire risk assessment in place at Lakanal House, where six people died in a 2009 tower block fire.

Speaking at the inquest into the blaze -- now into its eighth week -- chartered surveyor David Walker testified that Lakanal House had no fire risk assessment in place and that it should have been among the buildings in Southwark’s property portfolio that was prioritised.

Asked what progress housing providers had made with their fire risk assessment programmes by July 2009, almost three years after the Fire Safety Order took effect in October 2006, Walker answered:

It was very mixed. The programme was taken seriously by some housing providers, and some had taken action straight away, but there are many gaps in that, and it wasn't until the fire at Lakanal House that people then started to take things more seriously and put things in place.

The landmark nature of the Lakanal House fire in changing the national picture of how seriously fire risk assessments were taken after the July 2009 blaze was underlined by Walker’s testimony.

He went on to explain that the number of fire risk assessments his firm had undertaken since the Lakanal House fire had “increased dramatically.” He also explained that many of the buildings where they've undertaken fire risk assessments had not had previous assessments.

High-risk building
Asked specifically whether Lakanal House was a high-risk building that should have been prioritised early on in any fire risk assessment programme, Walker answered simply, “Yes, I do.”

He listed some of the key factors for why it should have been prioritised:

There's a list of items that I believe you would have looked at at Lakanal House: the height of the building; the number of residential units within that building; the unusual construction of the building, with the maisonette structure on two floors with a corridor on alternative floors; the age of the building; the single fire escape staircase; and previous history of fires.

The counsel representing the bereaved families of the six who lost their lives asked:

The Fire Safety Order came into effect on 1 October 2006. By the time of this terrible fire on 3 July 2009 -- that's two years and nine months later -- no fire risk assessment had been done. Do you agree with me that that's utterly unacceptable?

Walker replied that he thought it wasn’t unusual for it not to have been done, but that he did think that “perhaps they [Southwark Council] were a little slow at undertaking it, yes.”

Work was carried out at Lakanal House including asbestos removal and the rewiring of flats. This was subject to a building survey, but the work took place in 2006 before the Fire Safety Order came into force.

The court also explored, in detail, the length of time that the compartments and panels in Lakanal House should have lasted, and why the fire was not contained within the 60 minutes that firefighters expected. Source: IFSEC


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