Uni Tells Covid-Isolating Students to Wait in Their Rooms if a Fire Breaks Out

A fire engine parks outside Braithwaite House residential block in Islington in north London on June 24, 2017. Residents of 650 London flats were evacuated due to fire safety fears in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, but 83 people refused to leave their homes, according to local officials. …
TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images

A British university had told its students self-isolating on campus with coronavirus that if a fire breaks out, they should wait in their rooms before evacuating to allow other healthy people to leave.

The guidance came from York University’s Health and Safety Services and was emailed to coronavirus-positive students earlier this week.

According to the message seen by the BBC, students were instructed that if they hear the alarm, they should wait one minute in order “to allow non-isolating individuals to exit”. After that time, they should “make [their] way to the nearest refuge”, call the university’s Security Services, and wait to be told if they need to evacuate the building.

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service were alerted to the instructions and contacted York University, which issued new guidance — though the BBC notes it was not made clear what new advice had been given to self-isolating students.

An editorial from Spiked Online remarked: “The bureaucrats who drafted these guidelines seem to think that coronavirus is more deadly than fire. This is where Covid hysteria leads us.”

“These students were essentially told to risk their lives so as not to risk infecting others with Covid. While Covid poses a tiny risk to young people, making them wait for a minute in their rooms, or await instructions in a refuge, in the middle of an actual fire could be the difference between life and death.

“It seems being ‘Covid secure’ trumps everything else these days, including fire safety,” it said.

The last time people were asked to remain in their accommodation during a fire in the UK resulted in devastating consequences, with social media users reportedly drawing parallels between York’s guidance and the Grenfell Tower disaster where 72 people died.

When a fire broke out at the Grenfell Tower apartment block in London in June 2017, firemen instructed residents to stay in their flats for nearly two hours. The advice was given based on the assumption that the fire could be contained in the flat where it started, but that practice was based on the building’s original design. However, after the concrete structure was refurbished externally with flammable material, the fire spread, quickly engulfing the outside cladding.

An inquiry a year later determined that residents should have been ordered to leave straight away. In 2019, Inquiry judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick said that he believed a “prompt evacuation would have resulted in the saving of many more lives”.

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