JACOB Rees-Mogg’s comments regarding the “stay put” policy at Grenfell Tower (“Rees-Mogg apologises for ‘common sense’ comments on tower-block tragedy”, The Herald, November 6) were undoubtedly crass but they might have the benefit of drawing attention as to the validity of such a policy.

As an architect I have only ever applied a “stay put” policy to the design of prisons or hospitals. In the former the issues centre on security. But you have a relatively fit population who can be readily evacuated into a secure safe area within the building. With hospitals vulnerable patients would suffer from even a limited vertical evacuation. You therefore move them horizontally into a safe compartment within the building with vertical evacuation only as the last resort. That said, it is not without problems.

As long ago as October 1999 I questioned the suitability of the “stay put” policy during a Scottish Government meeting to discuss hospital fire safety. The regulations for fire are framed on the basis of the building having been evacuated before the fire brigade arrive. On arrival the fire brigade will head up to the floor below the fire floor to establish a bridgehead and from there will head up the stairs with a hose to fight the fire. This gives them a defined route of retreat if the fire can’t be contained.

As an architect I calculate the required width of the fire stairs based on the number of people to be evacuated downwards from each floor in a set time to a given formula. However this makes no allowance for firefighters coming up the stair at the same time, as happens under a “stay put” policy. This has the net effect of substantially reducing the minimum required width for safe evacuation downwards as well as hampering fire fighter access upwards to the seat of the fire. This was the point I was making at the meeting.

There is evidence of this scenario having happened at Grenfell Tower. I would argue that it is a direct consequence of no allowance having been made for such a policy when the building was originally designed. That then begs the question as to how London Fire Brigade determined that the “stay put” policy was deemed suitable for this particular building.

Since 1999 a separate set of rules for Scottish hospital design have evolved to address some of the issues raised. These were then largely incorporated into the Scottish Technical Standards. However it does not mean there are not residual problems.

For instance, the fire stairs in the new Glasgow hospital were designed to a width of 1300mm to save money. This width will accommodate a patient being evacuated down a stair on a mattress but with restricted ambulant passing. As such it does not recognise the additional space needed for fire fighters with equipment to get past and head upwards to fight the fire. Twenty years on and lessons have still not been learned.

Robert Menzies,


If “we want clever people running the country”, how is that going?

John Dunlop,


WITH reference to Jacob Rees-Mogg’s controversial remarks about the Grenfell Tower tragedy, might I be right in supposing that he feels entitled to pontificate on the grounds that he and his family live in similar accommodation?

John Kellie,


IT should come as no surprise that Jacob Rees-Mogg would ignore the advice of fire service staff at Grenfell. This is a man who ignores the views of experts in terms of the financial impact of leaving the EU, and is happy to see the people of the UK suffer financially whilst he has moved his investment business to Dublin.

Elites caring only for themselves.

Bill Eadie,