Statement by Minister Eoghan Murphy
on Fire Safety in Ireland

 

Eoghan Murphy, TD, Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government has today (27 June, 2017) tasked the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management with co-ordinating a high-level Task Force to lead Ireland’s re-appraisal of fire safety in the wake of the devastating Grenfell Tower fire in London. This follows on from the action taken by the Minister regarding immediate fire safety issues on 16 June, 2017 .

The Task Force consists of senior representatives from the National Directorate, Building Standards and Social Housing Divisions of the Minister’s Department, in addition to the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) and the Chief Fire Officer, Dublin who is also Chair of the Chief Fire Officers Association.

The National Directorate co-ordinated and reported on the national audit of fire safety in Traveller accommodation [1] which was undertaken by local authorities in association with representatives of the Traveller Community after the Carrickmines tragedy of 10 Oct 2015. The National Directorate also previously co-ordinated Ireland’s response to severe weather including cold spells in 2009 and 2010, storms in 2013 and 2014 and flooding in 2009 and 2015/16 [2].

Speaking after the latest co-ordination meeting Minister Murphy said, “while preliminary work shows that there are no situations in Ireland directly comparable to Grenfell Tower, we must learn the lessons and take appropriate and balanced action to continue to minimise the probability of a large scale fire tragedy occurring in Ireland”.

The Minister was briefed on the implementation of the initial actions which he had directed to be taken:

  • Local authorities have been requested to review fire safety in the multi-storey social housing sector and to report back to the Minister’s Department by 19th July 2017;
  • The National Directorate’s Management Board met at the request of the Minister and reviewed the state of preparedness of Ireland’s local authority fire services to respond to large scale incidents and have reported to Minister Murphy [3]. They have conducted an Area Risk Categorization process on a fire station by fire station basis and have benchmarked their services against national response standards;
  • The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) have been requested to notify all landlords of their responsibilities and obligations as landlords in terms of ensuring that their properties fully comply with fire safety requirements. An information notice on fire safety has gone up on the RTB’s website and a further fire safety information leaflet will issue to all landlords in  the coming days;
  • A Building Control Management System (BCMS) alert was issued to all 57,000 registered users of the BCMS to remind those involved in works to existing or new buildings of the need to remain vigilant in relation to compliance with the Building Regulations and in particular to Part B Fire Safety.

Minister Murphy has directed that a series of further steps be undertaken in the weeks ahead. These include:

  • The preliminary survey of the use of cladding products on residential buildings over 18m (6 storeys) being undertaken by fire services in Dublin is to be extended to the rest of the country and to cover buildings in all categories over 18m in height. The results to be reported to his Department by 19th July;
  • His Department is to meet with the local authority Chief Fire Officers in the coming weeks to review current activities and to plan for further fire safety initiatives in prioritised areas of action;
  • Responsibility for fire safety in buildings of all kinds (other than dwellings) is placed by Section 18 (2) [4] of the Fire Services Acts 1981 & 2003 on the ‘person having control’ of each building. In order to assist those in both the public and private sector who hold this responsibility, consideration is being given to the publication of a guide on  undertaking  Fire Safety Assessments as provided for in Section 18 (6)(a) of the Act. This will facilitate persons having control of buildings to demonstrate that they are complying with their statutory responsibilities;
  • The Minister will update his cabinet colleagues on the post Grenfell Towers situation and highlight the implications of fire safety responsibilities in buildings across all sectors, both public and private.
  • A renewed focus is to be placed on the preparations of local authorities, working with the Principal Response Agencies and others, for large scale evacuation and operation of rest centres under the aegis of the Framework for Major Emergency Management. [5]
  • The Minister will consider all issues emerging, including regulatory arrangements in line with developments.

Conclusion

The Minister will be briefed weekly on progress with the agenda he has set for mitigating fire risk in Ireland. He renewed his call for every householder to ensure that the most effective and straightforward measure for safeguarding families from fire – smoke alarms – are installed and fully functional in every home and are tested regularly.

[1]   NDFEM “Report on Programme to Review and Enhance Fire Safety in Local Authority provided Traveller Accommodation” (Sept 2016)

[2]   NDFEM “Report on Flooding Dec 4 2015 – 13 Jan 2016” (Nov 2016)

[3]   Meeting of the Management Board of the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management , 20th June, 2017

[4] It shall be the duty of every person having control over premises to which this section applies to—

  1. take all reasonable measures to guard against the outbreak of fire on such premises,
  2. provide reasonable fire safety measures for such premises and prepare and provide appropriate fire safety procedures for ensuring the safety of persons on such premises,
  3. ensure that the fire safety measures and procedures referred to in paragraph (b) are applied at all times, and
  4. ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the safety of persons on the premises in the event of an outbreak of fire whether such outbreak has occurred or not.”,

[5]   MEM Guide No 6 “A Guide to Planning and Managing Evacuation and Rest Centres” (Oct 2015)