Gate Safe calls for automated gate Best Practice to be observed in wake of Grenfell Tower tragedy

In the immediate aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the campaigners at Gate Safe – the organisation established to improve the understanding of existing legislation and standards affecting safe gates – were “horrified” to read in the national media that firefighters were recently hindered from attending an emergency because of a faulty automatic gate system.

Fire crews attending a call-out to a tower block in Manchester were forced to access the housing development by scrambling over a fence because the fire alarm panel hadn’t opened the security gates, effectively locking the Emergency Services out of the premises.

Apparently, this wasn’t the first time the Fire and Rescue Service had experienced the problem. There have seemingly been two further occasions on which access was denied in May, with one of those occasions resulting in rescue crews using ladders to climb over the gate and another forcing them to gain access via a pedestrian entrance gate that had been left ajar.

Fortunately, all three call-outs proved to be false alarms, but Gate Safe has pondered: “What if a fire had been found? The consequences don’t bear thinking about.”

As an organisation, Gate Safe has always strongly advocated that a separate pedestrian gate should be provided in addition to any automated gates installed for vehicular access. This is especially important in a high occupancy dwelling (such as a tower block).

Regardless of the above, Gate Safe states that any gate capable of inhibiting access in the event of an emergency scenario should be directly connected to the fire alarm such that it automatically opens if an incident should occur. Where the gate is key to the safety of residents, there should be an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) solution fitted to avoid any power outages impacting the gate’s ability to open and close.

Best Practice also dictates that the mandatory Fireman’s Switch should also be installed in a prominent place to allow entry for the Emergency Services teams at all times.

Finally, Gate Safe has urged that it’s absolutely vital to ensure a regular maintenance programme is in place for any automated gate. This is even more critical when it relates to a site where daily usage is high due to any sizeable number of occupants.

After reviewing the press coverage of the incident in Manchester, Gate Safe understands that none of these basic requirements were met.

The exterior cladding which featured at Grenfell Tower has been identified as a major potential factor that may have contribute towards the speed of the devastating blaze and subsequent substantial loss of life. This has resulted in a review of other tower blocks in the UK featuring either the same or a similar type of cladding.

As of the morning of Wednesday 28 June, Prime Minister Theresa May reported that, to date, 120 tower blocks have been tested for fire resistance and all of them have failed.

Gate Safe urges a similar audit of any automatic gates should be carried out at such properties as they may also pose a similar threat to resident safety.

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014.

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