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No sprinklers in London high-rise fire

We were all dismayed to wake up on Wednesday and see the unfolding tragedy at Grenfell Tower in West London. 79 people are confirmed dead and hundreds more have been injured or lost their homes. The EFSN wishes to express its deepest sympathy and sends its condolences to all affected. We have nothing but praise for the emergency services, who attended in huge numbers to try to save as many people as they could.

This fire was not unprecedented. Similar fires have occurred in the UK and other countries.

Sprinklers are a proven fire safety measure that would have prevented a fire of this scale. Grenfell Tower was built in 1974 without sprinklers. Regulatory guidance in England has only required sprinklers in high-rise residential buildings since 2007. Although this 24-storey tower was refurbished at a cost of £9 million in 2014/15, there was no requirement to fit sprinklers at the same time. The added cost to do so would have been about £200,000.

There is widespread agreement among fire safety experts that the fire safety regulatory guidance and its system of enforcement need to be reviewed. This review should include consideration of how to improve fire safety in existing buildings. The review should begin this year and not wait five years or more until the public enquiry announced by the Prime Minister is complete or litigation has ended.