Hampshire fire chiefs have welcomed new life-saving legislation that will help prevent fatalities from cable entanglement in fires. 

The new requirement compels all new wiring systems to use metal, rather than plastic, to support cables in escape routes. Melted plastic trunking and fallen cables were found to be a contributory factor in the deaths of St Mary’s firefighters Jim Shears and Alan Bannon at Shirley Towers in Southampton in 2010. 

The change was recommended by Coroner Keith Wiseman following the inquest into the Shirley Towers incident. Hampshire, alongside other fire and rescue services, have since lobbied for the change in UK wiring regulations, which came into force at the turn of the year. 

Dave Curry, Chief Officer at Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Following the death of our two colleagues, Alan Bannon and Jim Shears, at Shirley Towers, the Coroner found that fallen cables hampered their attempts to escape and proved a key factor in the tragedy. 

“He recommended a change to the legislation on cable support and we have lobbied hard over the last two years, through the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA), to bring this about. 

“While we cannot undo what happened at Shirley Towers, or other fatal fires where cables have been a factor, this small but vital regulatory change will help protect both the public and firefighters, and prevent them facing similar dangers in the future.”  

Lobbying by fire and rescue services to effect the change in regulation BS 7671 – which covers electrical installations in the UK – has taken place in conjunction with charity Electrical Safety First. The new requirement will apply only to cables within escape routes fixed to walls or ceilings.

“Past experience has shown that where cables supported by plastic cable clips or trunking are installed at high level in corridors, stairways and other escape routes, particularly in high-rise blocks, they can pose a significant risk during a fire,” said Martyn Allen, the head of the charity’s Electro-Technical Division.

“This applies to both residents and those attempting to rescue them, so we are delighted that our partnership approach to this issue has led to this important improvement in safety.” 

Fallen cables were also highlighted as a factor in the deaths of firefighters Michael Millar and Jeff Wornham at Harrow Court in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, in February 2005.

Andy Reynolds, Lead Officer for Electrical Safety at CFOA, added: “This regulatory change is a significant life-saving improvement and has been brought about thanks to the hard work of Electrical Safety First and a successful partnership with CFOA.”