Post by The Todal Post by John
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
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against the odds (no building plans, TMO's emergency plan 15 years out
of date) and there were a lot of important systemic failings of TMO and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.
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.