Tuesday, 29 October 2019

The truth they are hiding about the Grenfell Tower fire

I cannot tell you how shocked I am to hear some of the coverage of the release of the Grenfell Tower report today. If ever you wanted to know just how wrong our society has got its priorities, this is perhaps the finest example. 

If a plane crashed and killed nearly a 100 people and it was immediately clear that the reason was systemic bad design, every other plane of that type would be grounded immediately. This is done to avoid risk to the public. In aviation, we are risk averse and do not let people fly in dangerous aeroplanes. If you compare and contrast this with Grenfell, where people are still living in blocks clad with deeply dodgy materials, you cannot help but ask "What the hell is going on?". What is the difference between the lives of the council housing tenants of Grenfell type blocks and the lives of the relatively better off people who have historically used air travel? 

I have some insight into aircraft safety. My father was an air accident investigation officer for the RAF at the end of the second world war. He told me that he'd learned many things, but the main lesson was that no disaster was ever caused by a single failure. There was always a long trail of bad decisions and a coming together of circumstances that conspired to cause the tragedy.

Let's take the Grenfell tragedy. It started with an electrical appliance catching fire. Was this a defective design? Are we allowing dodgy products into our homes? Of course if it happens in my house, we've smoke alarms and we only have to open the front door and scarper.

If the dodgy appliance had been on the top floor, it would also have been a different outcome, as flames travel up. Not particularly relevant, but I listed it to demonstrate the random nature of such events. 

Then there was the cladding. An accident waiting to happen, a death trap and not fit for purpose. How could anyone allow that to be signed off. But it was bad fire breaks, dodgy window seals and poor all round maintenance that made it so lethal. Should a firm sell such products, knowing they are not safe? If you clad a plane in a flammable material, you'd go to prison, but a building?

Then there was the fire brigade. Did they do the right things. Again, I have my father to thank for an insight that many lay people would never have. He explained that on air bases, fire crews train constantly to deal with fires. They practice and practice and practice and they learn the layouts of planes etc. But sometimes, they come across situations that are not what they've been trained for. Being well trained will mean that you get the best outcome 99% of the time, but he explained that when the 1% of the time happens and you are outside your comfort zone, things can go horribly wrong. He explained that this is usually down to being trained to do a set drill and then finding that the real life situation has a different environment. This can result in delays as the teams on the front line argue with controllers on a phone or radio, who do not understand that the situation is not developing as expected. As I heard the criticism of the fire service, these words came back to haunt me. 

The teams at base, managing the response were following flawed protocols. The staff on the ground probably realised, but the command and control team took time to respond to this, resulting in vital minutes being lost. This is not the fault of the fire officers, or even the management. Sure they need more responsive protocols, but this situation wasn't their fault. I find it sickening that people who have never put their neck on the line ever feel enabled to phone radio shows and criticise them.

People should be in prison now for allowing occupation of unsafe buildings. This would set a very useful precedent. Every resident of every block in the UK that has dangerous cladding should be rehoused until their dwelling is safe. 

Of course, I one person was taken to court as a result of the Grenfell fire. DO you remember the stupid idiot who made a cardboard model of it and set it on fire. That is the UK, we can take idiots to court for being grossly insensitive, but the real culprits, the people who allowed people to live in a building with multiple safety issues walk free and untroubled. How sick is that?

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