Grenfell fire: Fewer people may have died if tower evacuated earlier, inquiry concludes

  • Video report by ITV News Reporter Sejal Karia

The public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire has ruled the fire brigade's planning and preparation procedures were "gravely inadequate".

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry: Phase 1 report, seen by ITV News, highlights the lack of contingency plans for the evacuation of the high-rise building, concluding a decision "could and should" have been made earlier to revoke the 'stay-put' advice. It claims the best part of an hour was "lost" before the advice was overturned.

The public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire has ruled the fire brigade's planning and preparation procedures were Credit: PA

An earlier decision to evacuate the building could have "resulted in fewer fatalities", the report says.

There were "serious deficiencies in command and control," the long-awaited public inquiry report states, while it also concludes there was a breakdown in "physical and electronic communication systems" on the night of [**June 14, 2017**](http://What happened on the night of the Grenfell Tower fire?).

Seventy-two people died as a result of the fire in June 2017. Credit: PA

The chair of the inquiry, Sir Martin and his legal team have been drafting the report since the first phase of the inquiry hearing ended in December 2018 and were given a deadline of October 30 to publish it by prime minister Boris Johnson. The report, which is expected to run to 1,000 pages, is due to be put before MPs on Wednesday.

The report, which focuses on events on the night of the fire, found London Fire Brigade was not prepared for a cladding fire, with the "otherwise experienced" commanders and senior officers having had no training on the "particular dangers associated with combustible cladding" despite similar incidents having occurred in other countries.

Flowers were laid during a wreath laying ceremony outside Grenfell Tower, London, to mark the two-year anniversary. Credit: PA

The operational risk database (ORB) for Grenfell Tower was found to contain "almost no information of any use" in the event of a fire, the report ruled, and the information it did contain was "many years out of date" and did not reflected the changes made during the refurbishment when the outside cladding was added.

The report also highlights a lack of understanding into the "behaviours and performance" of modern day materials in the event of a fire. The inquiry's second phase, which starts next year, will look at the decisions on the refurbishment of the tower when the cladding was added.

Sir Martin praised the "extraordinary courage and selfless devotion to duty" of the firefighters, but he said they faced a situation they "had not been properly prepared for".

A London Fire Brigade spokesperson said “The Inquiry’s findings are not being published until Wednesday morning and it would be inappropriate for us to comment on them until then.”

Sir Martin Moore-Bick, chairman of the Grenfell public inquiry. Credit: PA

The report concludes:

  • LFB incident commanders had received no training in how to recognise the need or organise an evacuation.

  • No contingency plan for an evacuation

  • A decision should have been made between 01.30 and 01.50 to revoke the 'stay put' policy.

  • "Serious deficiencies" in command and control.

  • Many physical and electronic communication systems did not work properly on the night of the fire.

  • Communication between the control room and on the ground were "uncertain" and "prone to error".

  • The operational risk database (ORD) was not up-to-date and contained "no information of use".

  • In some cases information held by LFB on the tower was "wrong" or "missing".

Nabil Choucair lost six members of his family in the fire. He told ITV News the 'stay put' policy should have been "abandoned in the very early stages."

He said: "Without a doubt it should have been abandoned very early in the stages and the rescue mission should have been taken into put a lot quicker and lot earlier."

"They LRB) thought and believed they could tackle a fire when they should have been doing a rescue mission instead," he told ITV News.

Mr Choucair believes his family and many others would have survived if there had been greater coordination among the fire brigade.

"There was no organisation," he said. "They didn't know what they were doing."

He told ITV News: "Everyone that is responsible for what they did wrong needs to be held accountable."

"And the fire brigade is one of those people who need to be help accountable for the actions they did wrong on the night."

Emma O'Connor only survived the fire by taking it upon herself to escape, using a lift. She was on the 20th floor of the building - and still feels guilty for not helping more people leave safely.

The night that still haunts her - though she believes firefighters did everything they could.

Roy Wilsher, National Fire Chief's Council, said the 'stay put' policy may need to be changed into emergency evacuation.

"Stay put is a sound strategy as long as the buildings are built properly and maintained properly. Quite clearly at Grenfell the cladding didn't comply with building regulations and there were other fire safety issues there," he told ITV News.

"We have come to realise since Grenfell that we might have to change from a 'stay put' strategy, which is a building strategy rather than a fire service policy into emergency evacuation.

"What we haven't done, or anyone's done is how to do that in real-time."