Tower Block Disaster

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reohn2
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Re: Tower Block Disaster

Postby reohn2 » 3 Nov 2019, 12:35pm

slowster wrote:
reohn2 wrote:would not sprinklers on stairwells dampen down smoke?

Not to any significant extent. Sprinklers are not a recognised or accepted method of controlling smoke. By way of example the Digital offices in Basingstoke were destroyed by fire in 1990. The offices were sprinklered, but the fire brigade turned the sprinklers off because there was so much smoke that they could not see and thought the fire was either out or under control. That's how ineffective the sprinklers were in keeping smoke down. The building was destroyed.

Things like smoke seals on fire resisting doors and positive presurisation of stairwells are recognised methods of controlling smoke.

I take your point.
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slowster
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Re: Tower Block Disaster

Postby slowster » 3 Nov 2019, 1:05pm

Bonefishblues wrote:On the night, members of the LFB were executing a Plan that was clearly failing. Of course the threshold was high to abandon the Plan and try to evacuate - but if seeing a Plan failing in front of ones eyes, and people dying in large numbers as a result isn't such a threshold, then I am nonplussed to understand what that threshold might be?

I disagree regarding the Commissioner's comments. There is rightful concern that her comments, having had legal advice, might indicate a more general issue within LFB (one readily remembers the issue of Institutional Racism being surfaced within the Met Police following another tragedy). It is of no significance that she will retire next year.

In theory it should not have been possible for the fire to occur the way it did: cladding systems on high rise buildings are not supposed to burn like they did at Grenfell. All the firefighters knew this (there is a video taken by one of the crews on his phone in an appliance travelling towards the fire, and a firefighter can be heard saying "That's not possible. How can that be happening?" or words to that effect). The firefighters simply did not know how the fire was going to continue to behave. For all they know, the quantity of combustible material in the cladding would be used up imminently or the cladding fixings would fail and the cladding fall away to the ground and the situation would completely change, i.e. the exterior of the building would no longer be on fire. Not knowing how the fire will behave and progress made it extremely difficult to make a decision about abandoning the stay put policy (unless you have the benefit of hindsight).

Every senior fire officer in the LFB and every chief fire officer around the UK will be very aware that in the event of another major high rise fire with fatalities, their actions and failings will be scrutinised for having failed to learn from Grenfell, so I don't doubt that a lot of work has been done and will be done to consider how they need to change their approaches.

As far as I am concerned, those who want to blame individuals are themselves part of the same systemic failures that created the potential for Grenfell. Fixing the problems will require a lot of hard work, great attention to detail, good decision making at all levels (not least by politicians), and a lot of money and training. Indulging in a blame game and looking forward to some individuals being jailed for manslaughter will not make the necessary improvements. They are ultimately just a distraction, and if anything are likely to divert attention and resources from where they are really needed to fix the problems.

Bonefishblues
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Re: Tower Block Disaster

Postby Bonefishblues » 3 Nov 2019, 1:28pm

slowster wrote:
Bonefishblues wrote:On the night, members of the LFB were executing a Plan that was clearly failing. Of course the threshold was high to abandon the Plan and try to evacuate - but if seeing a Plan failing in front of ones eyes, and people dying in large numbers as a result isn't such a threshold, then I am nonplussed to understand what that threshold might be?

I disagree regarding the Commissioner's comments. There is rightful concern that her comments, having had legal advice, might indicate a more general issue within LFB (one readily remembers the issue of Institutional Racism being surfaced within the Met Police following another tragedy). It is of no significance that she will retire next year.

In theory it should not have been possible for the fire to occur the way it did: cladding systems on high rise buildings are not supposed to burn like they did at Grenfell. All the firefighters knew this (there is a video taken by one of the crews on his phone in an appliance travelling towards the fire, and a firefighter can be heard saying "That's not possible. How can that be happening?" or words to that effect). The firefighters simply did not know how the fire was going to continue to behave. For all they know, the quantity of combustible material in the cladding would be used up imminently or the cladding fixings would fail and the cladding fall away to the ground and the situation would completely change, i.e. the exterior of the building would no longer be on fire. Not knowing how the fire will behave and progress made it extremely difficult to make a decision about abandoning the stay put policy (unless you have the benefit of hindsight).

Every senior fire officer in the LFB and every chief fire officer around the UK will be very aware that in the event of another major high rise fire with fatalities, their actions and failings will be scrutinised for having failed to learn from Grenfell, so I don't doubt that a lot of work has been done and will be done to consider how they need to change their approaches.

As far as I am concerned, those who want to blame individuals are themselves part of the same systemic failures that created the potential for Grenfell. Fixing the problems will require a lot of hard work, great attention to detail, good decision making at all levels (not least by politicians), and a lot of money and training. Indulging in a blame game and looking forward to some individuals being jailed for manslaughter will not make the necessary improvements. They are ultimately just a distraction, and if anything are likely to divert attention and resources from where they are really needed to fix the problems.

I agree with most of what you've written. I too saw the footage taken by the Firefighter travelling to scene. It was clear that it was outside his experience or comprehension.

Sure, nobody would have been certain how long the cladding would continue to behave as it did, but aiui it was abundantly clear early on that the fundamental premise of the stay put policy was breached, in that the fire was readily travelling into the flats from outside. It was an eventuality that hadn't been planned for, but the stay put plan was finished at that point.

It's possible that the Commissioner was simply lax in her words to the Enquiry, but their significance can't be in doubt. If ever there was a time for someone in a (the most) senior leadership position to give a lead, that was it. That opportunity was missed, and quite spectacularly so IMHO. If those preparations have been made up and down the country, then we should be shouting about them (and wondering why this isn't a national issue, too, I'd suggest) by way of both reassuring the public, and also at least letting those involved in Grenfell that lessons have been learned.

I have the deepest respect for, and sympathy with (ref JLR's comments about the trauma they too will have suffered, and will continue to suffer) fire fighters being confronted with that situation, but just like the AAIB, we have to avoid personalising this wherever possible, which is, I think what you're saying. That's a different matter though, to examining the preparation for, and actions on the night of the fire with a critical eye.

slowster
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Re: Tower Block Disaster

Postby slowster » 3 Nov 2019, 1:38pm

Bonefishblues wrote: like the AAIB, we have to avoid personalising this wherever possible, which is, I think what you're saying.

Correct.
Bonefishblues wrote:That's a different matter though, to examining the preparation for, and actions on the night of the fire with a critical eye.

No, it's a blame game, and a self-indulgent one too. Convincing ourselves that someone made a mistake and that we would not have made the same mistake in their position, is precisely what makes it possible to avoid addressing the really important issues. Telling yourself that you would not have made the same mistake, means that you then do not have to consider the systemic nature of the problems, including problems in how incident commanders are trained and take decisions

Bonefishblues
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Re: Tower Block Disaster

Postby Bonefishblues » 3 Nov 2019, 1:42pm

slowster wrote:
Bonefishblues wrote: like the AAIB, we have to avoid personalising this wherever possible, which is, I think what you're saying.

Correct.
Bonefishblues wrote:That's a different matter though, to examining the preparation for, and actions on the night of the fire with a critical eye.

No, it's a blame game, and a self-indulgent one too. Convincing ourselves that someone made a mistake and that we would not have made the same mistake in their position, is precisely what makes it possible to avoid addressing the really important issues. Telling yourself that you would not have made the same mistake, means that you then do not have to consider the systemic nature of the problems, including problems in how incident commanders are trained and take decisions

Not what I'm saying, I'm agreeing with that latter para in full - i.e. the actions on the night are the symptom, but where we differ is I think, the need to examine them to inform the cause, as it were. I think the Enquiry Chairman understands that too, from his comments and concerns I've seen reported.

Vorpal
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Re: Tower Block Disaster

Postby Vorpal » 4 Nov 2019, 11:35am

Bonefishblues wrote:
slowster wrote:No, it's a blame game, and a self-indulgent one too. Convincing ourselves that someone made a mistake and that we would not have made the same mistake in their position, is precisely what makes it possible to avoid addressing the really important issues. Telling yourself that you would not have made the same mistake, means that you then do not have to consider the systemic nature of the problems, including problems in how incident commanders are trained and take decisions

Not what I'm saying, I'm agreeing with that latter para in full - i.e. the actions on the night are the symptom, but where we differ is I think, the need to examine them to inform the cause, as it were. I think the Enquiry Chairman understands that too, from his comments and concerns I've seen reported.

But that's not how it's being reported. It is being reported as criticism of individuals and/or their decisions. They need to keep individuals out of it and report the systemic failings that allowed lives to be lost through the decision of one individual. It is difficult, or impossible for the public to determine if the Enquiry is determining the systemic root causes when the people are what is being reported on.

I haven't seen the report, and don't know if or when it will be available to the general public, but it borders on the ridiculous that the media are talking about individuals in the LFB, rather than what the systemic failings were and what should be done to address them.
“In some ways, it is easier to be a dissident, for then one is without responsibility.”
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Bonefishblues
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Re: Tower Block Disaster

Postby Bonefishblues » 4 Nov 2019, 1:50pm

I can't influence how things are reported I'm afraid, but I think I have picked through enough to understand the nuances of the report. The media may have portrayed it somewhat differently, as is their wont on occasion.

slowster
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Re: Tower Block Disaster

Postby slowster » 4 Nov 2019, 2:58pm

I suspect that the selective and biased media reporting of the report is at least in part due to a lack of skill and nous in writing such a report by the judge. These inquiries are quite rare - probably only a minority of judges will ever chair a public inquiry like Grenfell Tower - and ideally the judge needs to have extra skills which they would not require for their normal roles. One of those is the ability to write a report in such a way that greatly limits the scope for the media and vested interests to misrepresent the findings of the report.

Lord Saville was heavily criticised for the 12 years it took for his inquiry into Bloody Sunday and the subsequent report, but I think he was far wiser and cleverer than most gave him credit for. He knew that not only was it essential that his report was absolutely definitive and impossible to refute (especially given the delay of decades during which Governments had refused to hold an inquiry, and also given the original Widgery report which was considered an appalling whitewash), but also that the findings of the report could not be spun or misrepresented. His report was accepted unequivocally, and I can't recall anyone successfully misrepresenting it.

With regard to the criticism of the LFB, one thing that surprised me at the time of the fire was the fact that its most senior officer was the incident commander. As far as I know Moore-Bick made no comment on that, but I would question the most senior person in an organisation like the LFB also fulfilling an operational role like that. That would not happen in the police, e.g. Cressida Dick was Gold Commander in charge of the operation which led to the killing of Jean Charles De Menezes, but has since been promoted a number of times and would presumably no longer fulfil a similar operational role as Commissioner of the Met. Nor would it happen in the military, e.g. the Chiefs of the Defence Staff would not take direct charge in a battle.

As both the head of the LFB and the incident commander on the night of Grenfell, Dany Cotton probably had roles that were in conflict: she could not maintain the more detached perspective needed by the persons at the very top of a large organisation, especially afterwards for the internal review and discussions of what happened in the fire, and especially she could not be in a good position to judge not only whether her own actions and decisions on the night were right, but also whether the policies and strategies of the LFB were the right ones, because she was too personally involved in what happened as an inevitable result of being the incident commander.

pwa
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Re: Tower Block Disaster

Postby pwa » 4 Nov 2019, 3:43pm

While it is right to look at how the Fire Brigade responded to this fire, I await with interest the analysis of what happened before the fire to make it possible. In particular, how did it come to be that high rise residential buildings all over the UK were clad in a combustible layer.

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Re: Tower Block Disaster

Postby Vorpal » 4 Nov 2019, 3:47pm

I have read some incident reports from other organisations (RAIB, Channel Tunnel Safety Authority, MCIB), and they do not refer to individuals, except as representing a role (e.g. 'divisional commander', 'fire commander', 'incident commander', 'emergency response manager, 'shift manager') etc. Secondly, interview reponses (i.e. what someone said) are not generally published. Instead, they would publish something like:
There have been significant failures in learning from previous incidents. This was reinforced by the statements given by the Incident Commander.

This would be reinforced with detail and references, though not necessarily the actual words of an individual. A record of the deposition/testimony/interview would, of course be kept, but not necessarily made available to the public.
“In some ways, it is easier to be a dissident, for then one is without responsibility.”
― Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

slowster
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Re: Tower Block Disaster

Postby slowster » 4 Nov 2019, 4:49pm

pwa wrote:I await with interest the analysis of what happened before the fire to make it possible. In particular, how did it come to be that high rise residential buildings all over the UK were clad in a combustible layer.

The inner layer of plastic foam insulation material affixed to the building exterior was a Celotex product, and the only one its range which had passed the particular fire test required by Building Regs to allow it to be used on a building over 18m high. However, it was reported in the months after the fire that the Brigade/Police had had the same test performed on undamaged pieces of the insulation removed from Grenfell, and they had failed the test. The question for the inquiry, the police and the courts will be why this was so - was the original test not performed correctly? (Since the manufacturers are the ones paying for the test, there is a danger that an independent testing company will be 'keen' to ensure that the product passes). The other obvious possibilty is that the product which was manufactured and sold differed from the samples which passed the original test, e.g. the tested samples were made to a higher QC standard (or possibly even a different formulation).

The outer cladding manufactured by Arconic contained a combustible core, whose function was to provide strength and rigidity as opposed to insulation. The latter point is important, because Approved Document B of the Building Regulations prohibits combustible insulation being used to clad buildings over 18m high, but make no similar prohibition on combustible material (indeed even the very same material as used in combustible insulation, i.e. foamed plastic) being used in cladding installed for other functions, e.g. decorative or weatherproof cladding. In other words the sales people involved in specifying and supplying the cladding were (almost certainly knowingly) relying on a loophole. It's not a defence I would want to rely on as a defence barrister in a manslaughter trial.

Another factor is that the UK fire tests for these products are usually done of relatively small samples under conditions which do not necessarily match the real world. One thing we don't do in the UK, unlike the US, is test multiple products like the ones installed at Grenfell together as they would be installed. Not only was neither product non-combustible, it appears that they were a particularly bad combination: the highly combustible outer cladding did not contain the amount of plastic foam that would be used when it was installed to provide insulation, but I think it probably acted as 'kindling' as it were to ignite and promote the combustion of the Celotex insulation (which even though it failed fire tests, might not have ignited or burned so quickly without the outer cladding).

merseymouth
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Re: Tower Block Disaster

Postby merseymouth » 6 Nov 2019, 7:49pm

Hello, I do believe that a large part of the anger posed by this cladding wasn't merely the nature of the material, but also that it appears that the actual installation of the cladding created voids at the corner, in effect a flue?
Thus we had a sort of chimney fire conflagration, which if you have ever suffered such an issue you will know they can be difficult to reach. So if you factor in the height of the tower block, coupled with the fact that LFB had no high reach appliances, made it quite difficult to tackle.
So I have a few questions, which hopefully part 2 of the enquiry will address -)1) If large commercial have to have repeater alarms on each floor, does that mean that Grenfell Tower was so equipped? (2) Why if a building only has a single evacuation route, in this instance the central stair way, why was no sprinkler system mandated? As has been posed by others that could well have suppressed the smoke. (3) Why if an area has high rise buildings in it's housing plan were High Reach Appliances not within the emergency service's range of appliances? (4) Why does the LFB believe that it's action plan for such an eventuality was "Fit For Purpose"?
What I think might be valid about the JRM comments is as to why the fire was allowed to progress for as long as it did before LFB questioned it's own plan, time is always a major factor in the prevention of death occurring? Had I and my family been in such a situation I would have defied the advice given, after all flight from danger is a basic instinct!
JRM may appear tactless, but he surely is not the one who should be brought to account?
When one considers how long it took for the truth to come out after Hillsborough might not the same apply here? Cover up is not beyond the realms of those who should fear the full facts being revealed, not just discovered, warts and all, no hiding behind confidentiality walls.
Those who sadly did not have a life after closing their front door deserve it. For too long in too many instances truths have been buried, errors repeated. MM

pliptrot
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Re: Tower Block Disaster

Postby pliptrot » 7 Nov 2019, 8:31am

merseymouth wrote: a large part of the anger
well, there is certainly a lot of that after JRM's comments. It is not so much what he said, but that it revealed the sneering contempt he and his ilk have for those not in their tribe. Then we have Andrew Bridgen revealing himself to be a complete moron and underlining his belief that -if only the people who died had been cleverer, and possessed of common sense- they would have survived. His comments were made without apparent irony. It is very, very sad.

mikeonabike
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Re: Tower Block Disaster

Postby mikeonabike » 7 Nov 2019, 8:34am

merseymouth wrote:What I think might be valid about the JRM comments is as to why the fire was allowed to progress for as long as it did before LFB questioned it's own plan, time is always a major factor in the prevention of death occurring? Had I and my family been in such a situation I would have defied the advice given, after all flight from danger is a basic instinct!
JRM may appear tactless, but he surely is not the one who should be brought to account?
JRM could have said simply that with hindsight the LFB's stay-put advice wasn't right in these circumstances. Not controversial.
But he said it was common sense to ignore the LFB, and suggesting that the victims died because they lacked common sense. Offensive, especially coming from someone who spouts drivel on many subjects but expects people to follow his advice.
The stairwells were not entirely safe and may have appeared more dangerous than someone's flat - until it was too late to escape.

francovendee
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Re: Tower Block Disaster

Postby francovendee » 7 Nov 2019, 8:37am

For me the tragedy splits into two parts.
On the day of the fire the LFB were called to the tower block and had a relatively short time to assess the situation and take action. This action is now under scrutiny and justly so.
The second part, is in my view more serious. The refurbishment of this block was planned and during this planning selection of materials, methods and contractors would have been discussed at great length by 'experts'. This wasn't a time limited exercise and failure in this area is far more worrying to me.