High rise buildings - firefighting arrangements: report

HM Fire Service Inspectorate (HMFSI) report assessing the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service's (SFRS's) arrangements and readiness to fight fires in high rise buildings in Scotland. It contains areas of good practice and recommendations where there is scope to improve performance.


1. Significant fires in high rise buildings are relatively infrequent; however, due to the construction of these buildings, firefighting can offer particular challenges to the Fire and Rescue Service (FRS). These challenges may include issues involving access, communications, incident command, and potential fire and smoke spread. Preplanning is important. Firefighters need to have a level of knowledge and training in high rise firefighting techniques; and the FRS needs to have suitable equipment, and information and checking systems to reinforce its preplanning.

2. This report is the outcome of an inspection by HM Fire Service Inspectorate (HMFSI) into the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service's (SFRS's) arrangements for firefighting in high rise buildings. For the purpose of this inspection, we have followed the definition of a high rise building used by the SFRS in its operating procedure, being buildings in excess of 18 metres above ground level or having five or more floors.

3. Appendix A contains information about HMFSI, while appendix B contains information on how the inspection was undertaken. This inspection has looked beyond firefighting since firefighting is interdependent on other features and other aspects of FRS work.

4. The recommendations and comments we have made in the report address some strategic level issues and also some issues concerning detail and practice.

5. There is a general trend towards the use of the term 'tall building' rather than high rise. High rise can be interpreted as only applying to domestic buildings. We have maintained the use of the term 'high rise' within our report for consistency, and we use the term generically to apply to both domestic and non-domestic buildings.

6. The devastating fire at Grenfell Tower in London in 2017 resulted in the tragic loss of 72 lives and is the subject of an inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005. The Grenfell tragedy demonstrated an extreme fire and risk. The report of Phase 1 of the Inquiry into the fire contained recommendations, some of which are directed at London Fire Brigade and some to FRSs generally. The Inquiry's recommendations relative to FRSs are listed in appendix C. The outcome of the fire and the recommendations of the Inquiry were naturally in the mind of our inspection team while undertaking our inspection.


Email: HMFSI@gov.scot

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