A Grenfell Tower resident was told to remain in their flat more than 15 minutes after the London Fire Brigade’s “stay put” advice was changed, a public inquiry has heard. Scotland Yard’s control room staff had been deployed to answer 999 calls as the scale of the disaster on June 14 last year escalated.
Some 72 people died as a result of the blaze in the 24-storey west London tower block.
Call records show people phoning within minutes of each other were given different advice even before LFB decided residents should try to “escape by any means necessary” by 2.47am.
A caller at 1.28am was told: “Yeah evacuate. Get everybody out,” while another who rang a minute later was advised to stay. “There is someone coming up to help you,” they were told.
“There is nothing else I can do other than tell them that you’re there. So they have been told. They are aware that you’re there.” Metropolitan Police Commander Neil Jerome defended the actions of the call handlers at a public inquiry in Holborn, central London, on Tuesday.
“Our operators are listening to individuals on the phone and clearly they are wanting to save their lives.
“I think in each individual case they are making an assessment based on what they are hearing,” he said.
“They are making these flexible decisions based on what they are hearing at the time and clearly not rigidly adhering to the advice that had been given to them.”
The inquiry heard a resident who rang 999 at 3.05am was told to stay in their flat, more than 15 minutes after the LFP advice changed.
“Caller this is the police,” the operator said.
“I’m trying to get someone to you but you need to tell me where you are.”
Asked if he could account for that, Commander Jerome said: “No, I’m sorry, I can’t.”
The inquiry heard the change in advice did not go out over the police radio until 3.08am and counsel to the inquiry, Richard Millett QC, said:
“That particular control room operator had not yet heard or been given the message the advice was now to evacuate.” Commander Jerome said he could not account for the gap in time between the LFB advice changing and the message being given to Met officers.