Twelve years prior to the Grenfell disaster, a critical report revealed a negligent approach to the safety of the tower’s residents by Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO)
The report has now been made public following a prolonged campaign by residents and suggests that torches with rechargeable batteries should be installed in every flat, wired to the mains to recharge, so that residents could use them to escape.
Neither Kensington and Chelsea council nor Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) would say whether the recommendation was followed – but residents say the torches were never installed.
The independent report into problems with the emergency lighting system at the tower was commissioned by the KCTMO in 2005 after two-thirds of the tower’s emergency lighting units failed a routine inspection.
Both KCTMO and the contractor responsible for the block’s fire escape lighting were criticised with the report detailing “inadequate management”, “inadequate installation standards”, a “failure to acknowledge the importance of undertaking urgent remedial works” and a “lack of communication” between the block’s management and residents.
Survivor accounts suggest not all the stairwell lights were working on the night of the fire with darkness shrouded in thick smoke.
Francis O’Connor, the co-author of the Grenfell Action Group blog, which repeatedly warned of fire safety issues before the disaster, said the problems identified in this report indicated “that a culture of complacency, negligence and incompetence was rife within the TMO and was not confined to fire safety issues – with complaints from tenants legion”.
O’Connor said he was shocked to read the report, which provided the “most authoritative and comprehensive forensic evidence I had seen of how pervasive the maladministration was at the TMO”.
The report noted that because the tower’s emergency staircase had no natural light, the emergency lighting system was vital.
It criticised the KCTMO for failing to prepare risk assessments that recognised that “residents and members of the public were continuously at risk” when the lighting system was defective.
The KCTMO’s response to the ongoing problem with the broken system “unfortunately did not reflect any urgency”, the report stated.
The document is significant because it provides an independent third-party assessment of management failures by KCTMO, which residents claim were problematic in 2005 and still ongoing in 2017.