EU-wide fire safety campaign launched

A new EU-wide campaign has been launched to help raise the profile of fire safety in buildings.

Grenfell Tower fire | Photo credit: Press Association

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

29 Aug 2017

The move comes after the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy in the UK which killed scores of people, including children.

It also coincides with a debate on fire safety by the European Parliament in Strasbourg next month.

On 13 September, MEPs are due to discuss for the first time fire safety in buildings at a meeting where both Council and European Commission representatives will also speak.

Ahead of the parliamentary debate, Fire Safe Europe, a European alliance which aims to raise the profile of fire safety in buildings, is asking MEPs and others to sign its fire safety petition.

The petition has been sent to all the EU institutions.

A campaign spokesperson said, "This is our chance to ask for fire safety in buildings to be improved for the benefit of all citizens. We are asking people to sign the petition and help us make our buildings safer for all."

Fire Safe Europe is asking the EU to make changes to ensure that tests to evaluate the performance of facades in a fire are based on real‐life situations where fires can be large scale. 

It is also asking policymakers to introduce requirements to test the toxic smoke from construction products, and to label those products with their results so that builders and consumers can make informed choices.

Fire Safe Europe has also called for the development of a European fire safety strategy. 

The spokesperson said, "Building fires affect people. There are at least 5000 fire incidents each day in the EU. Each year in Europe, approximately 70,000 people are admitted to hospitals with severe fire‐related injuries. Worldwide, children make up 30 per cent of injuries and fatalities caused by fire. Firefighters are especially heavily impacted.

"But building fires also affect the environment. Fires cause massive amounts of air pollution. They deplete materials and increase carbon emissions, a major challenge for sustainable resource management."

He went on, "Building fires have a cost, of course, and it is estimated that €126bn is eaten up by fire damage each year. For European countries, it is one per cent of their GDP. Fire can lead to major infrastructure, data and stock loss, less productivity, staff unemployment, and even bankruptcy."

Meanwhile, the EU ombudswoman Emily O'Reilly says lessons should be drawn from the Grenfell tragedy.

The Irish official said, "The tragedy of the fire at the Grenfell tower block in London showed clearly what people most want in their lives and also showed what happens when governments fail truly to look after their needs or leave it to the market to decide even matters as vital as fire prevention. 

"People want control, they want agency. They want to be treated as they are entitled to be treated, as the primary focus of the work of the state and of its administration. They want to be treated as citizens, not customers."


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