Discussion:
Dear Fire Fighters
(too old to reply)
The Todal
2019-10-30 16:59:59 UTC
Permalink
Please know that the general public will not be watching Dispatches
tonight. We are not stupid. We can see what Channel 4 are trying to do.
We stand with you. We thank you for everything you do to keep us all safe.
Heroes every single one of you.
Shame on you Channel 4!!! How very dare you!!! No!!! Our firefighters did
not fail us!!!!! We can give you a list of who failed!!!
Hysterical nonsense. I suppose you haven't bothered to read the Inquiry
report, Phase 1, that was released today, in 4 volumes, and was leaked
yesterday.

The individual firefighters displayed enormous courage and
self-sacrifice. They were badly let down by an incompetent London Fire
Brigade, their employers. It put the lives of firefighters at risk,
though fortunately none died. It certainly caused the needless deaths of
tenants, which will have been extremely distressing for the firefighters.

Failures include the lack of prior information about the building itself
as well as failures of strategic planning both before and during the fire.

https://www.grenfelltowerinquiry.org.uk/phase-1-report

Quote

The primary obstacle in the way of WM Dowden’s carrying out a full
evacuation of the building was that he had not been trained for it. The
mere existence of the decision-making model in PN341 was not of itself
enough. In simple terms, the decision-making model failed not only
because WM Dowden did not “recognise and react quickly to changing
circumstances”, but because he did not know what to do. Similarly, there
is nothing in PN633 or the various incident command policies that
assists incident commanders in that respect. Having seen and heard WM
Dowden over three days, I do not think that his failure was due to any
personal lack of ability or commitment. Rather, it was due to
deficiencies in his training which failed to equip him with the means of
deciding when to switch from the “stay put” strategy to one of partial
or total evacuation. His extensive oral evidence about his training and
its limits, particularly in relation to evacuation and contingency
planning in relation to fires in high-rise buildings, strongly supports
that conclusion, as does the evidence of other senior firefighters.

There is in my view a further underlying reason why WM Dowden, and
indeed the incident commanders after him, did not change strategies,
quite apart from the fact that he (and they) failed to appreciate the
significance of much of the information which demanded it. The absence
of any policy guidance on how to carry out a full building evacuation
with no evacuation plan in place and no means of telling the occupants
to leave can only have discouraged him from contemplating the
possibility of a full evacuation. The knowledge that high-rise buildings
are constructed on the basis of effective compartmentation itself
created a barrier to thinking about evacuation.

Similarly, one could occasionally detect in the evidence of senior
officers a reluctance to believe that a building could ever fail to
comply with the Building Regulations. The evidence taken as a whole
strongly suggests that the “stay put” concept had become an article of
faith within the LFB so powerful that to depart from it was to all
intents and purposes unthinkable. That itself helps to explain why it
was not thought about until it was too late for many of the occupants of
the tower. The fact that the Commissioner was compelled to ask the
rhetorical question: “It’s all very well saying ‘Get everybody out’, but
then how do you get them all out?” emphasises that the LFB had never
itself sought to answer that question in its preparations and training
and had not equipped itself to carry out a total evacuation of such a
building. The requirements of GRA 3.2 and some of the provisions of its
own PN633 demand an answer to that question, which will be investigated
in Phase 2.
Martin Brown
2019-10-31 11:39:24 UTC
Permalink
Post by The Todal
Please know that the general public will not be watching Dispatches
tonight. We are not stupid. We can see what Channel 4 are trying to do.
We stand with you. We thank you for everything you do to keep us all safe.
Heroes every single one of you.
Shame on you Channel 4!!! How very dare you!!! No!!! Our firefighters did
not fail us!!!!! We can give you a list of who failed!!!
Hysterical nonsense. I suppose you haven't bothered to read the Inquiry
report, Phase 1, that was released today, in 4 volumes, and was leaked
yesterday.
I have flash read most of it and the report is far more nuanced in its
criticism than the headlines being reported in the wider press.

I think that the press are unfairly demonising LFB. They were working
against the odds (no building plans, TMO's emergency plan 15 years out
of date) and there were a lot of important systemic failings of TMO and
RBKC that are being ignored by the press reports.

I think the press are using the Phase 1 report to unfairly criticise the
LFB when they were put in an impossible position by a building that was
so horribly compromised that the compartmentalisation rules for high
rise buildings that they were taught as gospel broke down completely.

They were facing a petrochemicals fire wrapped around a densely
populated high rise block. It was not their fault that it had been so
compromised that it was literally a major disaster waiting for ignition.
Post by The Todal
The individual firefighters displayed enormous courage and
self-sacrifice. They were badly let down by an incompetent London Fire
Brigade, their employers. It put the lives of firefighters at risk,
though fortunately none died. It certainly caused the needless deaths of
tenants, which will have been extremely distressing for the firefighters.
I think that they were put in an impossible position. However, it is
clear from the transcripts that at about 01:40 the bridgehead was
persuaded to switch from specific room rescue to clearing floor by floor
by CM Tillotson (#12/3 p205). He described the tactic as 'snatch
rescue'. That isn't anything like as bad as is being portrayed.

The problem for 999 and FSG calls was that official policy is not to ask
untrained civilians to walk into a smoke filled environment without BA
equipped firemen there because they get disorientated and collapse.

What Dany Cotton said at the inquest may have been insensitive but it
could also have been *correct*. The general public have no idea how
horrible it is to be in thick smoke barely able to breath or see your
hand in front of your face. Nobody does until they have been put into
that situation (under controlled conditions). Advising people to do that
too soon could have merely altered where the fatalities occurred.
(I accept LFB left it too late to switch to a get out at any cost rule)

Devising an optimal mass evacuation strategy that saves the most number
of lives in such an extreme situation is pretty brutal and triage based.
Whatever they did they were going to get hammered for something.
Post by The Todal
Failures include the lack of prior information about the building itself
as well as failures of strategic planning both before and during the fire.
https://www.grenfelltowerinquiry.org.uk/phase-1-report
Quote
The primary obstacle in the way of WM Dowden’s carrying out a full
evacuation of the building was that he had not been trained for it. The
mere existence of the decision-making model in PN341 was not of itself
enough. In simple terms, the decision-making model failed not only
because WM Dowden did not “recognise and react quickly to changing
circumstances”, but because he did not know what to do. Similarly, there
is nothing in PN633 or the various incident command policies that
assists incident commanders in that respect. Having seen and heard WM
Dowden over three days, I do not think that his failure was due to any
personal lack of ability or commitment. Rather, it was due to
deficiencies in his training which failed to equip him with the means of
deciding when to switch from the “stay put” strategy to one of partial
or total evacuation. His extensive oral evidence about his training and
its limits, particularly in relation to evacuation and contingency
planning in relation to fires in high-rise buildings, strongly supports
that conclusion, as does the evidence of other senior firefighters.
I am not sure you can train people for a situation where everything that
they have ever been taught about fighting a fire in a high rise building
is no longer valid. It is now clear *with hindsight* that at about the
time when the cladding fire advanced beyond their water spray reach they
should have switched to evacuating the whole building from the top down.

But I can easily understand why a commander on the scene with imperfect
information might try to fight the fire for longer than really makes
sense. If he had succeeded then the fire would have been extinguished.
Post by The Todal
There is in my view a further underlying reason why WM Dowden, and
indeed the incident commanders after him, did not change strategies,
quite apart from the fact that he (and they) failed to appreciate the
significance of much of the information which demanded it. The absence
of any policy guidance on how to carry out a full building evacuation
with no evacuation plan in place and no means of telling the occupants
to leave can only have discouraged him from contemplating the
possibility of a full evacuation. The knowledge that high-rise buildings
are constructed on the basis of effective compartmentation itself
created a barrier to thinking about evacuation.
I think the bridgehead did realise the gravity of the situation inside
the building somewhat sooner than the overall commander - hence the
conflicting briefings reported by BA set users.
Post by The Todal
Similarly, one could occasionally detect in the evidence of senior
officers a reluctance to believe that a building could ever fail to
comply with the Building Regulations. The evidence taken as a whole
We are not a third world country! That building should never have been
permitted to exist! It is the people who signed off on the materials
specification and fake fire certificates for it that should be in the
dock and *NOT* LFB. Yes LFB made mistakes under absolutely enormous
pressure on the night but were put in an impossible overload situation.
Post by The Todal
strongly suggests that the “stay put” concept had become an article of
faith within the LFB so powerful that to depart from it was to all
intents and purposes unthinkable. That itself helps to explain why it
was not thought about until it was too late for many of the occupants of
the tower. The fact that the Commissioner was compelled to ask the
rhetorical question: “It’s all very well saying ‘Get everybody out’, but
then how do you get them all out?” emphasises that the LFB had never
itself sought to answer that question in its preparations and training
and had not equipped itself to carry out a total evacuation of such a
building. The requirements of GRA 3.2 and some of the provisions of its
own PN633 demand an answer to that question, which will be investigated
in Phase 2.
The emergency evacuation plan for a hazardous building is the
responsibility of the building owner or employer. It was out of date by
15 years and so of no use whatsoever. There was no central fire alarm to
sound an evacuation and the fire lift emergency lockout didn't work.
(*MAKE NO MISTAKE* this was a hazardous building in about the same class
as a high rise chemical laboratory full of flammable solvents)

Emergency evacuations are practised roughly every six months on
hazardous sites and even with fit and well trained employees there are
occasional casualties arising. My friend was injured once when one of
the magnetically locked smoke doors slammed into his face on release.

I think it is time for the fire brigade to insist that all owners of
buildings with firelighters strapped to the outside run full emergency
evacuation tests of their residents with the local fire brigade checking
that they do the appropriate tally of people from the building.

If you wanted it to be properly realistic then doing it at night without
internal lighting would more accurately simulate what it is really like
in thick smoke. You can be practically certain that there *will* be some
non-trivial casualties when doing this sort of simulation exercise.

One thing I think is missing from the report is that the possibility of
safe bulk evacuation would have been made a lot more tractable if there
had been a positive pressure forced clean air supply to the stairwell
(this also carries risks of fanning the flames). Or sprinklers in just
that key zone to clear and cool the air on the only evacuation route.
--
Regards,
Martin Brown
The Todal
2019-10-31 16:34:18 UTC
Permalink
Post by Martin Brown
Devising an optimal mass evacuation strategy that saves the most number
of lives in such an extreme situation is pretty brutal and triage based.
Whatever they did they were going to get hammered for something.
Not at all. If you read the repot, you find that the London Fire Brigade
comprehensively failed in its duties. It had plenty of experience of
high rise fires involving buildings which did not comply with building
regulations and in which fires jumped from one compartment to another.
It pretended to learn from these experiences by giving training courses
which few firemen were invited to, and documents which asked the
firefighters to assess the situation without giving them any training or
guidance whatsoever in how to assess the situation.
Post by Martin Brown
Post by The Todal
Failures include the lack of prior information about the building
itself as well as failures of strategic planning both before and
during the fire.
https://www.grenfelltowerinquiry.org.uk/phase-1-report
Quote
The primary obstacle in the way of WM Dowden’s carrying out a full
evacuation of the building was that he had not been trained for it.
The mere existence of the decision-making model in PN341 was not of
itself enough. In simple terms, the decision-making model failed not
only because WM Dowden did not “recognise and react quickly to
changing circumstances”, but because he did not know what to do.
Similarly, there is nothing in PN633 or the various incident command
policies that assists incident commanders in that respect. Having seen
and heard WM Dowden over three days, I do not think that his failure
was due to any personal lack of ability or commitment. Rather, it was
due to deficiencies in his training which failed to equip him with the
means of deciding when to switch from the “stay put” strategy to one
of partial or total evacuation. His extensive oral evidence about his
training and its limits, particularly in relation to evacuation and
contingency planning in relation to fires in high-rise buildings,
strongly supports that conclusion, as does the evidence of other
senior firefighters.
I am not sure you can train people for a situation where everything that
they have ever been taught about fighting a fire in a high rise building
is no longer valid.
You can train them to expect what they are likely to encounter, based on
the collective experience of the Brigade when dealing with previous
fires. If you aren't sure how you can do it, read the report.
Post by Martin Brown
It is now clear *with hindsight* that at about the
time when the cladding fire advanced beyond their water spray reach they
should have switched to evacuating the whole building from the top down.
But I can easily understand why a commander on the scene with imperfect
information might try to fight the fire for longer than really makes
sense. If he had succeeded then the fire would have been extinguished.
Communications equipment wasn't working properly and had never been
fixed, which is disgraceful. Commanders hadn't been trained in how to
keep a log of which occupants had asked to be evacuated and which of
them had been evacuated, wasting a lot of time and compromising lives.
Nobody seemed willing or able to make the decision to abandon the stay
put policy, until a manager in the control room, far from the fire, made
that decision based on the calls his staff had been receiving.

In view of the many failings by the Brigade, Dany Cotton's comment that
she wouldn't have changed a thing is breathtaking in its complacency and
ignorance.

There is a huge amount of material in the four volume report and most
people probably haven't read more than a fraction of it. Look at
https://assets.grenfelltowerinquiry.org.uk/GTI%20-%20Phase%201%20full%20report%20-%20volume%204.pdf

If you begin at Chapter 27, page 86, you can read the main criticisms,
in which the judge considers the pre-existing policies and regulations
and discusses the wholesale failure of the Brigade to implement its own
policies.

For instance

27.16 Furthermore, despite the clear terms of paragraphs 4.8, 4.10 and
7.45-7.47 of PN633, which envisaged a potential need to evacuate a
high-rise building subject to a “stay put” policy, there is no evidence
that any of the officers who attended the fire (with perhaps one
exception) had received any training in the principles of evacuation,
how to decide whether evacuation was necessary or how to carry it out
safely and efficiently.

snip

The Commissioner said in evidence:

....that although cladding fires were a known and material risk to
high-rise residential buildings, in which fires could behave
unpredictably, the LFB would not develop a training package to respond
to “something that simply shouldn’t happen”, or as she put it more
graphically, “for a space shuttle to land on the Shard”.10 That evidence
betrayed an unwillingness to confront the fact that by 2017 the LFB knew
(even if she personally did not) that there was a more than negligible
risk of a serious fire in a high-rise building with a cladding system.
The evidence also revealed a reluctance to accept that there was a risk
that a fire of this kind and scale might occur in any building that had
been provided with exterior cladding. Although the wholesale failure of
every layer of fire safety in the building may not have been reasonably
foreseeable by the LFB, the risks of rapidly developing facade fires in
high-rise buildings and a consequent deluge of FSG calls were well known
to the LFB in June 2017.
Martin Brown
2019-11-06 11:45:31 UTC
Permalink
Post by The Todal
Post by Martin Brown
Devising an optimal mass evacuation strategy that saves the most
number of lives in such an extreme situation is pretty brutal and
triage based. Whatever they did they were going to get hammered for
something.
Not at all. If you read the repot, you find that the London Fire Brigade
comprehensively failed in its duties. It had plenty of experience of
high rise fires involving buildings which did not comply with building
regulations and in which fires jumped from one compartment to another.
It pretended to learn from these experiences by giving training courses
which few firemen were invited to, and documents which asked the
firefighters to assess the situation without giving them any training or
guidance whatsoever in how to assess the situation.
I grant you that they didn't learn as much from Lakanal House fire as
they should have done and that the when to abandon the stay put policy
training and guidance for fire commanders was woefully inadequate.

It is interesting to look at the statistics on high rise risk
assessments from that Lakanal House fire wash up period.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/8290103.stm

It wasn't just the fire brigade that was complacent by any means.
Politicians were every bit as much to blame.

But the fact remains that the fire brigade should not expect to find
themselves fighting a petrochemical fire in a high rise residential
block except in the highly unusual case of an oil production platform.

Grenfell Tower didn't just not comply with building regulations it
ignored them at a level that I reckon makes the people who signed off on
its "safety" certification culpably negligent. *They* should be on trial
and not the fire brigade who were left to sort out the resulting mess.

I'm not saying the fire brigade didn't make mistakes but what I am
saying is that they are nothing like the root cause of the problem.
Post by The Todal
Post by Martin Brown
Post by The Todal
Failures include the lack of prior information about the building
itself as well as failures of strategic planning both before and
during the fire.
https://www.grenfelltowerinquiry.org.uk/phase-1-report
Quote
The primary obstacle in the way of WM Dowden’s carrying out a full
evacuation of the building was that he had not been trained for it.
The mere existence of the decision-making model in PN341 was not of
itself enough. In simple terms, the decision-making model failed not
only because WM Dowden did not “recognise and react quickly to
changing circumstances”, but because he did not know what to do.
Similarly, there is nothing in PN633 or the various incident command
policies that assists incident commanders in that respect. Having
seen and heard WM Dowden over three days, I do not think that his
failure was due to any personal lack of ability or commitment.
Rather, it was due to deficiencies in his training which failed to
equip him with the means of deciding when to switch from the “stay
put” strategy to one of partial or total evacuation. His extensive
oral evidence about his training and its limits, particularly in
relation to evacuation and contingency planning in relation to fires
in high-rise buildings, strongly supports that conclusion, as does
the evidence of other senior firefighters.
I am not sure you can train people for a situation where everything
that they have ever been taught about fighting a fire in a high rise
building is no longer valid.
You can train them to expect what they are likely to encounter, based on
the collective experience of the Brigade when dealing with previous
fires. If you aren't sure how you can do it, read the report.
I largely agree.
Post by The Todal
Post by Martin Brown
It is now clear *with hindsight* that at about the time when the
cladding fire advanced beyond their water spray reach they should have
switched to evacuating the whole building from the top down.
But I can easily understand why a commander on the scene with
imperfect information might try to fight the fire for longer than
really makes sense. If he had succeeded then the fire would have been
extinguished.
Communications equipment wasn't working properly and had never been
fixed, which is disgraceful. Commanders hadn't been trained in how to
keep a log of which occupants had asked to be evacuated and which of
them had been evacuated, wasting a lot of time and compromising lives.
Some of the communications problems were due to flame proof zone RF
power levels in the breathing apparatus which meant that they went out
of range. The incompatibility of the police helitele feed with FBU kit
in the main control was unforgivable though. They were working blind.
Post by The Todal
Nobody seemed willing or able to make the decision to abandon the stay
put policy, until a manager in the control room, far from the fire, made
that decision based on the calls his staff had been receiving.
It goes against just about everything the rank and file are taught about
high rise buildings. Containment is a critical part of a high rise
residential building's fire safety system - it should never have been
permitted to exist with such a highly flammable outer layer.

I met a friend who is a civil engineer and his perspective on it was
interesting. Council input on the refurb project was likely to have been
limited to picking an overall design from 3 or 4 offers, choosing the
colour and finish of the external panels and agreeing a price. He
expects there are other blocks done to roughly the same formula by the
same team before and after Grenfell which need looking at urgently.

All I have seen so far is tokenistic removal of lower cladding within
reach of a budget cherry picker on high rise blocks around Manchester. I
expect there could well be another Grenfell like fire before the Phase 2
enquiry has been published (it will certainly be a close run thing).
Post by The Todal
In view of the many failings by the Brigade, Dany Cotton's comment that
she wouldn't have changed a thing is breathtaking in its complacency and
ignorance.
I think she was defending her men from accusations that were flying
around. It is possible that she was right though in terms of outcome -
the building fire was so severe and fast that significant casualties
were inevitable once the fire had run up the side of the building.

One way in which Grenfell tower differed from all previous major
cladding fires was that it didn't just run vertically up the side of the
building from where it started but rapidly spread diagonally as well. It
didn't help that the internal fire doors were apparently inadequate.
Post by The Todal
There is a huge amount of material in the four volume report and most
people probably haven't read more than a fraction of it. Look at
https://assets.grenfelltowerinquiry.org.uk/GTI%20-%20Phase%201%20full%20report%20-%20volume%204.pdf
If you begin at Chapter 27, page 86, you can read the main criticisms,
in which the judge considers the pre-existing policies and regulations
and discusses the wholesale failure of the Brigade to implement its own
policies.
For instance
27.16  Furthermore, despite the clear terms of paragraphs 4.8, 4.10 and
7.45-7.47 of PN633, which envisaged a potential need to evacuate a
high-rise building subject to a “stay put” policy, there is no evidence
that any of the officers who attended the fire (with perhaps one
exception) had received any training in the principles of evacuation,
how to decide whether evacuation was necessary or how to carry it out
safely and efficiently.
However, it is the building owner that is responsible for putting
together an evacuation policy for their building (at least it has been
in all the hazardous sites where I have worked). Ironically we never had
a fire that was more serious than a cigarette in a waste paper basket.
We had a full scale evacuation practice about every six months too.

When was there last a practice full scale evacuation of a potentially
vulnerable firelighter clad tower block where people sleep at night?
Post by The Todal
snip
....that although cladding fires were a known and material risk to
high-rise residential buildings, in which fires could behave
unpredictably, the LFB would not develop a training package to respond
to “something that simply shouldn’t happen”, or as she put it more
graphically, “for a space shuttle to land on the Shard”.10 That evidence
betrayed an unwillingness to confront the fact that by 2017 the LFB knew
(even if she personally did not) that there was a more than negligible
risk of a serious fire in a high-rise building with a cladding system.
There are cladding systems that are not as seriously in breach of fire
regulations as the one they put onto Grenfell tower. AIUI the FR grade
of PE used for warehouse storage crates has a burn rate of between
6-20cm per minute as opposed to the 2m/min seen at Grenfell. Even
allowing for the chimney effect a fire resistant grade of cladding could
have allowed the fire brigade more time to sort out an evacuation plan.

I don't like the Commissioners choice of words. But I do think she has a
point. Buildings should never be constructed or altered so that they are
death traps due to the inappropriate choice of cladding materials and/or
bad design. Where were the planning inspectors and fire safety checks?
Post by The Todal
The evidence also revealed a reluctance to accept that there was a risk
that a fire of this kind and scale might occur in any building that had
been provided with exterior cladding. Although the wholesale failure of
every layer of fire safety in the building may not have been reasonably
foreseeable by the LFB, the risks of rapidly developing facade fires in
high-rise buildings and a consequent deluge of FSG calls were well known
to the LFB in June 2017.
That the FSG response system could be overwhelmed by a mass casualty
event on the scale of "Towering Inferno" isn't all that surprising. I
guess it is another consequence of austerity leading to cut backs in the
capacity of a rarely used part of the emergency services.
--
Regards,
Martin Brown
Farmer Giles
2019-11-01 07:36:17 UTC
Permalink
They also serve (themselves, that is) who only stand on the sidelines
and throw stones.
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