Following the third reading of the Building Safety Bill in the House of Lords this week, the government is likely to reject a requirement for personal emergency evacuation plans (PEEPs) for disabled people in high-rise buildings.
The recommendation came from the first phase of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry. Lord Stephen Greenhalgh, building safety minister, said that a consultation from July 2021 concerning PEEPs “made clear the substantial difficulties of mandating PEEPs in high-rise buildings around practicality, proportionality, and safety.”
The government had shown signs of resistance to implementing PEEPs, prior to the family of Sakina Afraeshabi, a disabled victim of the Grenfell fire, writing to the Home Office in October 2020 threatening legal action.
However, it looks as though the government’s stance has changed again, as on Monday, Lord Greenhalgh said: “On practicality, how can you evacuate a mobility-impaired person from a tall building before the professionals from the fire and rescue service arrive?
“On proportionality, how much is it reasonable to spend to do this at the same time as we seek to protect residents and taxpayers from excessive costs?
“On safety, how can you ensure that an evacuation of mobility-impaired people is carried out in a way that does not hinder others in evacuating or the fire service in fighting the fire.”
Lord Greenhalgh has also stated that the government is committing to a new consultation that will include “emergency evacuation information sharing” (EEIS), and saying the government is “acutely aware of the need to ensure the safety of residents with mobility concerns.” The government has confirmed that it is planning to publish its response to the PEEPs consultation, along with its new consultation on its EEIS plan, and commence the Fire Safety Act 2021 on the same day in May.
Claddag, the leaseholder disability action group, said in a statement that it is “unconscionable” that the government has dismissed the recommendation. They also commented further, saying that Lord Greenhalgh is “wrong to assert that mobility-impaired people” cannot evacuate without the fire and rescue service, and that the group was “sickened” to hear the minister question whether any associated costs of evacuation plans are reasonable as he “seeks to protect residents and taxpayers from costs.”
“Radio and TV awareness campaigns encourage us all to have plans in place should our homes catch fire – the government clearly believes this caution and responsibility should only extend to non-disabled people.
“The final blow was Lord Greenhalgh’s attempt to shame disabled people into ‘staying put’ in a fire to avoid ‘hindering others’ from evacuating. Please let that sink in.
“It is preposterous for the government to assert that it is ‘committed to supporting the fire safety of disabled people’ when it rejects the use of evacuation plans on the basis of costs, convenience, and ableism.”
Fire Protection Association April 2022