Kensington and Chelsea council’s decision to remove an estimated 4,000 fire doors like those fitted in Grenfell Tower does not address “even the tip of the iceberg” of safety problems posed in social housing, a fire safety expert has said.
The council announced this week that the Manse Masterdor fire door will be removed from properties throughout the royal borough after tests revealed it was only able to resist fire for 15 minutes rather than the 30 minutes required by building regulations.
The refitting is expected to cost around £3.5 million but Charlie Sadler, a fire safety expert who is also a core member of the Grenfell fire forum, said issues extend beyond just the fire doors.
Ms Sadler, who has more than 26 years’ experience working in structural fire protection, said: “It’s not just about the fire door itself. The issue extends a little bit further than just a plain fire door.
If the fire doors are that way, then what does it tell you about the rest of the building?
“If the fire doors are that way, then what does it tell you about the rest of the building?
“Is it also the compartmentalisation? Are there any issues with the windows, as there was with Grenfell? What’s happened there? Once you start looking into these buildings suddenly you start opening a can of worms.
“It’s not even the tip of the iceberg. It’s just skimming it off at the moment.”
James Brokenshire, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, said all Manse doors across the country must be replaced, but stated “the risk to public safety remains low”.
However, Kensington and Chelsea council believes the replacement programme “must be started as a matter of urgency”.
Khadijah Mamudu, also a core member of the Grenfell fire forum whose mother and young brother survived the tragic west London tower fire, said the council must also focus on other fire-stopping measures, otherwise replacing the doors becomes “a rather pointless exercise”.
She said: “A year on and they decided to do this now? Some might say better late than never, I disagree.
“I do hope they are ensuring all other fire-stopping measures are adequate, as this is key to compartmentalisation – otherwise the doors alone are a rather pointless exercise.”
According to the council, there were five suppliers who bid for the contract to replace the fire safety doors and they were scored based on price (40%) and quality (60%).
Ms Sadler said the desire to do things affordably is understandable, but should not be done at the cost of human safety.
She said: “With any kind of social housing there tends to be the desire to do it as cheap as possible. This is understandable because everybody wants to try and make as much profit as we can, but for goodness sake not at the sake of lives.
“It’s ridiculous in this day and age when you have got relatively easy access to materials that are of a fairly decent standard. It doesn’t have to be the Rolls Royce of fire doors for it to actually do its job – but they have to be at least halfway decent.”
A spokesman for the council said: “All of the new doors will meet the 30-minute requirement but, given the issue with Manse Masterdor units, the council will send the new doors for independent testing so that we can be 100% sure the doors will resist fire for at least 30 minutes.
“Saving lives is our single priority. We are taking nothing for granted.”