EDIT – Update 16/06/27 9pm:
I don’t support one party over another or play them off against each other because ultimately the direction of the country doesn’t change. However with everybody looking at the tragedy that is Grenfell Tower in the richest borough of London, Kensington and Chelsea, and how they treat their poor people – a number of dangerously embarrassing factors have been unearthed.
Eight failures that left people of Grenfell Tower at mercy of the inferno
A litany of failings in building regulation and safety rules have left residents in tower blocks vulnerable for decades. Despite constant warnings from fire experts, nothing was done to improve fire-proofing standards, or even review the current situation. Here are the eight times that the victims of Grenfell Tower were let down.
A change in the law
Until 1986 all buildings in London fell under the London Building Acts which ensured that external walls must have at least one hour of fire resistance to prevent flames from spreading between flats or entering inside.
But under Margaret Thatcher’s government, those rules were replaced by the National Buildings Regulations and the crucial time stipulation was scrapped.
Instead, materials used on the outside of buildings now only had to meet ‘Class O’ regulations and show that they did not add to the heat or intensity of a fire. But crucially they did not have to be non-combustible.
For the past three decades fire safety experts have warned that the ‘Class O’ designation was based on small-scale tests conducted in laboratory conditions and did not properly evaluate cladding in a live fire.
A recent London Fire Brigade investigation into the fire at a tower block fire at Shepherd Court in West London in August 2016 found that external cladding had helped the fire to spread. [My Comment: Yet in the same year Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation went ahead and used known high risk cladding on the partial refurb of Grenfell Tower and used Aluminium instead of Zinc because Aluminium doesn’t spark/ignite when its melting point (lower than Zinc’s) is reached, however that is undermined when coupled with flammable panel parts and insulation.]
They found that when exposed to high flames the metal sheet of the cladding had melted away, setting the inner polystyrene foam on fire and allowing ‘flaming droplets’ to fall onto lower floors while helping flames to spread higher up. Fire chiefs wrote to every council in London to warn them of the dangers but no action was taken.
A leading fire safety expert warned Government advisors three years ago that a tragedy like the Grenfell Tower inferno would happen unless they changed rules to ban cheap, flammable insulation used on the outside of buildings.
Arnold Turling said the Grenfell blaze was “entirely avoidable” and that a gap between the panels acted as a ‘wind tunnel’, fanning the flames, and allowing the fire to spread to upper levels.
Mr Turling, a member of the Association of Specialist Fire Protection, said: “Any burning material falls down the gaps and the fire spreads up very rapidly – it acts as its own chimney.”
Three years ago Mr Tarling, a chartered surveyor, addressed the British Standards Institute’s seventh annual fire conference in London, at which government fire safety advisor Brian Martin was present.
“I said we will have this type of cladding fire in this country and it will lead to large numbers of deaths,” he said.
Following the Shepherd Court fire, insurer RSA wrote a report warning that flammable material in insulation panels “melts and ignites relatively easily”, and can cause “extremely rapid fire spread and the release of large volumes of toxic smoke”.
They concluded: “This allows extensive and violent fire to spread, and makes fire fighting almost impossible.”
Architect and fire safety expert Sam Webb said there was a “conflict” between fire safety and the materials that are used to make buildings more energy efficient.
However Harley Curtain Wall Ltd said that it had installed cladding, with polyisocyanurate inside, a material which is better than most at resisting fire in tests.
No government review
After six people died in the Lakanal House fire in south London in 2009, the All-Party Parliamentary Fire Safety and Rescue Group called for a major government review of building regulations.
They argued that 4,000 tower blocks across London were at risk because of a lack of fire risk assessments, and panels on the outside walls not providing the necessary fire resistance.
The coroner on the Lakanal House inquest also recommended the government simplify regulations relating to fire safety so they were easier for landlords to understand.
In 2013, then communities secretary Eric Pickles responded to the coroner’s recommendations and promised a review with an updated version of building regulations published in 2016/17.
However, four years on and no review has been completed despite assurances from former housing minister Gavin Barwell, who is now Theresa May’s chief of staff. [My Comment: strip him of his titles and find out WHY he’s been stalling such essential review.]
A spokesperson for the Department for Communities and Local Government said the work is “ongoing” and would not give a date for when the updated regulations will be published.
A single staircase
Residents in Grenfell Tower made repeated warnings that a single staircase was their only means of escaping the building.
Despite safety concerns of experts, tower blocks in Britain still only have to have one staircase, leaving Britain out of step with other countries in the world.
Russ Timpson, of the Tall Buildings Fire Safety Network, said his “foreign colleagues are staggered” that there is no requirement for a second staircase as he called on the Government to look again at fire safety regulations.
Residents fleeing in Tuesday night’s blaze complained that stairways were blocked, full of smoke and had no sprinkler systems fitted. Firefighters also struggled to get to the upper levels.
Fire rips through Grenfell Tower in London. Ronnie King, secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Fire Safety & Rescue Group, said: “The staircase should have been protected route for firefighters and people escaping but it was clear that it wasn’t.”
The flats had recently been refitted and fire experts warned that gaps in the walls where new pipes were installed could have allowed flames and smoke to spread quickly through the communal areas.
There was no central sprinkler system at Glenfell which members of the Fire Protection Association said would have “undoubtedly” saved lives.
MPs from All-Party Parliamentary Group Fire Safety & Rescue Group also said that MPs had been calling for sprinklers to be fitted on the outside of tall buildings for years, but said their calls been ignored.
Currently, sprinklers only need to be fitted up to 30 metres, but in tall buildings like Grenfell it is impossible for fire hoses to reach the upper heights, leaving the top floors without any protection.
The Fire Protection Association said more sprinklers would “undoubtedly” have saved lives.
“Whether they’d have stopped that fire spreading at the speed it did up the outside of that building is another matter,” Jon O’Neill of the FPA said.
“But to have had sprinklers in that building would have created an environment where it would have been easier to rescue people and increase survivability.”
However in 2014 housing minister Brandon Lewis stopped short of forcing building developers to fit sprinklers, over fears it could discourage house building. [My Comment: He was Minister of State for Housing and Planning 2014–2016, Minister of State for Policing and the Fire Services 2016–2017 and is currently Conservative Member of Parliament
for Great Yarmouth 2010–present Minister of State for Immigration 2017–present. Wow this guy is given too much credit given his deplorable track record, strip him of his titles and investigate WHY he made such a shitty decision. If Sprinklers or any feature was made a normal part of building procedure costs would go down and wouldn’t discourage building especially since the government has to contract for ‘affordable housing’ in a country where there’s already tons of property sitting empty because its too expensive or used for holiday rentals, also too expensive.]
He said at Westminster Hall Debate: “The cost of fitting a fire sprinkler system may affect house building – something we want to encourage.”
Missing fire doors
London Fire Brigade said claims that doors were not fire-proofed would form part of its ongoing inquiry.
Two separate sources have told The Telegraph that not all the front doors in the tower block were fire-proofed. Official fire brigade advice to stay put in the event of a fire is based on fire doors offering protection to residents told not to leave the building.
Fire doors are designed to stop the fire spreading rapidly through the building rather than being “compartmentalised”.
Regulations state that all tower blocks being built must have fire doors on the flat, the stairwell and the riser doors, which give access to the pipes.
Building regulations are not retrospective, so cannot force the installation of modern equipment on old buildings.
However, Richard Brownlee, Managing Director of Surrey Fire and Safety Ltd, said that it would be expected that fire doors were installed as part of any refurbishment and installation would be recommended as part of any refurbishment.
According to information released by Kensington and Chelsea Council under the Freedom of Information Act, the last time that Grenfell Tower was subject to a full Fire Risk Assessment was December 2015.
There is a requirement for every building to have regular fire risk assessments, but the regulations do not specify how frequently this should take place. Industry experts say that best practice is every 12 months.
It is also a requirement to have a fire risk assessment carried out if there is a “material change” to the building. The regulations do not specify how soon that inspection must take place.
The refurbishment to Grenfell Tower was completed in May 2016 and yet it does not appear that any safety checks were carried out, even though the new cladding work consisted of ‘material change.’ The council did not respond to a request for comment.
Fires on outside of cladded buildings should have been controlled by firebreaks – gaps in the external envelope to prevent the continual burning of material.
Under Building Regulations 1991, developers are warned that they must install systems to prevent flames from leaping from floor to floor.
However the Fire Brigades Union and the Loss Prevention Council and the Buildings Research Establishment have frequently warned that guidance is not adequate in the event of a fire.
And fire safety experts said it was unlikely that firebreaks would have stopped the conflagration at Grenfell.
Dr Stuart Smith, a building surveying and fire safety lecturer at Sheffield Hallam university, said: “The rate at which the building was burning suggests that even if the fire breaks were there, they didn’t work.
“Once the fire had got into the cladding, the rate at which that burns, I’m not sure fire breaks would work anyway.”
So from the Conservative point of view – We had Margaret Thatcher put people in danger, we had Gavin Barwell stall repeatedly recommended review of Fire Safety Regulations, Brandon Lewis then neglected to make adding sprinklers into law and on the very day of forewarned disaster (feared by experts and felt by tenants (who’d also been threatened to take their blog with complaints offline)) Theresa May gave scripted sounding responses, turned up for a ‘private’ meeting with emergency staff whilst ignoring all the victims present… Right after an epic election fail. Pathetic.
Shameless Tory council leader blames Grenfell Tower block residents for lack of sprinklers claiming they didn’t want ‘disruption’
A shameless Tory has blamed Grenfell Tower block residents for the lack of sprinklers in the building.
Nick Paget-Brown, the Conservative leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, claimed tenants didn’t want the ‘disruption’ of them being fitted.
Experts have suggested that sprinklers could have been fitted in the 24-storey building for just £200,000 during the £10 million refurbishment.
Asked if installing sprinklers was considered as part of the refurbishment, Mr Paget-Brown said the advice was that the best way to combat the spread of a fire was to contain it.
He told BBC2’s Newsnight: “There was not a collective view that all the flats should be fitted with sprinklers because that would have delayed and made the refurbishment of the block more disruptive.” [My Comment – no but at least the stairway (and corridors) where some idiot decided to put gas pipes and no backup in case of fire.]
“We are now talking retrospectively after the most enormous tragedy, but many residents felt that we needed to get on with the installation of new hot water systems, new boilers and that trying to retrofit more would delay the building and that sprinklers aren’t the answer.”
He added:”I didn’t consider retrofitting sprinklers because we were told that what you try to do when you are refurbishing is to contain a fire within a particular flat so that the fire service can evacuate that flat, deal with the fire.”
But he said: “Of course I regret anything that we might have done differently that would have avoided this tragedy.”
The British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association has put the cost of installing a sprinkler system at £200,000.
Mr Paget-Brown was unable to say how many tower blocks in his borough lacked sprinkler systems.
Amid speculation that the cladding fitted to Grenfell Tower could have been a factor in the fatal blaze, Mr Paget-Brown said no other refurbishments in the borough would use the system.
“As far as I know there are no other towers with that cladding,” he said. [My Comment: And how many others didn’t have risk assessments, a fundamental part of planning.]
Asked if the borough would use similar components on towers in the future, he said: “No.”
He added: “We have asked the London Fire Brigade to look at all our towers and give us a report on whether fire safety in all of the towers – because we are very conscious residents are worried about this – whether they can give us the assurance that we need that all of those towers are safe and that they comply with fire standards, fire regulations.” [My Comment: And their advice has been ignored for years by the Conservatives. ‘Shameless’ doesn’t even begin to describe…]
Fire-resistant Grenfell Tower cladding would have cost just £5,000 more than flammable
It would have cost just £5,000 to use fire-resistant cladding on Grenfell Tower, it emerged last night.
Hundreds of aluminium panels are thought to have been fitted to the outside of the tower by Harley Facades, a small family firm subcontracted as part of that refurbishment.
US-based Reynobond makes three types of panel: one with a flammable plastic core and two with fire-resistant cores.
Last night investigators were probing whether the cheaper and more combustible, versions were used by the contractors.
Reynobond’s fire-resistant panel sells for £24 per square metre— £2 more expensive than the standard version.
Estimates suggest that the cost of using the more expensive version would have cost about £5000.
A salesman for US-based Reynobond told The Times that this version, which has a polyethylene core and is known as PE, was banned in American buildings taller than 40 feet (12.2 metres) for fire safety reasons.
He said:“It’s because of the fire and smoke spread. The FR [variant] is fire-resistant. The PE is just plastic.”
The PE version is used for small commercial buildings and petrol stations, he said, rather than for tower blocks or critical buildings such as hospitals.
The PE panels which conform to UK standards but are rated as “flammable” in Germany, putting them in the same category as “unprotected wood with a thickness of no more than 12mm”.
So £2 a head is what the average human being at Grenfell Tower was worth in terms of standard spending and ‘premium’ spending/materials, the difference between life and death or a ‘decent’ and a mentally/physically crippled one. Nice (sarcasm). I thought people were worth much less to decision makers.
Only was used 8.7mil in the 2016 partial refurbishment – that’s all they could be bothered to do and for what purpose was the cladding? To maintain property prices in the most expensive borough in London, to make the building look prettier not to make it more livable. It was likely better off before with the original ‘exposed’ and ‘ugly’ inflammable building materials. This event was preventable and shouldn’t have happened, period. I doubt calls for corporate manslaughter will go far but they should. The risks were known, there were examples worldwide including in the UK, Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) ignored concerns/recommendations from the fire service and tenants, a different to norm metal was used for the cladding, there wasn’t a proper central fire alarm system, the resident association were threatened, the same building method reportedly used on other buildings in their portfolio etc etc etc they’re being cheap and reckless and they know it. They killed, maimed people and animals, made them homeless, put fear into the hearts of people all over in similar conditions -its corporate manslaughter at the very least not [just] building code violations/technicalities with possible fines. Damage control is cheaper than prevention which is why shoddy work like this is done, even in places like uber affluent Dubai who also don’t care about human rights. Tower blocks from the 70s should’ve been demolished not ‘refurbed’ and tenants temporarily re-homed in the process with guaranteed places in the new developments.
This is what happens when they take the cheap route, even ‘not-for-profit’ organizations. What I also hate is there is tons of property in London, tons of it sitting empty because they’re too expensive. We all keep looking for ‘affordable housing’ renting, buying or shared ownership. It’s not a lack of property, its the packing of people into cramped spaces so that buy-to-let landlords can make money. Rents are too high and overall prices far above labour, materials and margins. A ton of property in London and most people dont have access to it and never will let alone buy it. Most people are forced into the rent trap where they’re spending most of their income on rent which doesn’t get them much more than a shelter over their heads especially if you’re living in low standard housing and you can be kicked out at any point with many being ineligible for emergency housing and possibly social housing and innumerable private landlords refuse housing benefit claimants or any ‘benefit’ claimants, people with pets and even people with children instead wanting ‘professionals’ and ‘professional couples’ – what about maternity and paternity leave? Do they have to move out if they’re going to have children? Not to mention that many can’t make decorative let alone structural changes to their residence – say goodbye to the pencil marks/height charts on the walls of your ‘home where you grew up’ (as opposed ‘temporary shelter’) people, sad. We’re not hiring and housing robots, these are people – they eat, sleep, get ill, have children, have family issues, need holiday/rest, change over time, retire – yet governing bodies, insurance firms and mortgage lenders act like they should be automatons. Coupled with a lack of council properties and councils having to look to housing associations and private landlords, what are people supposed to do?! Even professionals have a hard time with teachers being the latest upset in the ever ongoing housing crises, ironic given the previous drive for affordable housing for them. Housing plus travel and household costs means you’re broke and/or in debt, you can barely keep up with the mounting bills. People in the 80s and prior did well when they bought their properties ‘cheap’ for approx £10-40,000, many could pay it off in less than a lifetime mortgage (currently 40 years, previously 25 years) AND on wages that were ok for the time instead of stagnant like they have been for ages against rising prices for everything else. Those people are safe, everyone who came later who isnt rich (and not being ‘successful’ and/or rich doesn’t equate to being lazy, unintelligent or untalented – it just means not as lucky or well connected in order to show off the hard work and be rewarded [fairly or unfairly] for it) are in crises.
A lack of proper precautions and care leads to people having to resort to desperate measures like this:
Quick-thinking mum saves her family in Grenfell Tower blaze by running a bath and flooding their flat
A brave mum saved her family as they were trapped in the Grenfell Tower inferno – by running a bath and flooding her entire flat.
Natasha Elcock was trapped along with her boyfriend and her six-year-old daughter in their 11th floor home when the blaze ripped through the building.
The family had followed instructions to stay in the flat if a fire broke out, but after 90 minutes fire crews told her to flee the flat.
Natasha explained the front door was too hot to touch and when it started to buckle and the windows began to bubble, the John Lewis worker knew she had to take drastic action.
The 38-year-old mum, who has lived in the tower block for 20 years, turned on her taps and flooded the bathroom.
She told the Daily Star : “I let the bathroom flood. It kept the flat damp and it may have saved our lives.”
Natasha kept her daughter on the wet floor and made sure her family stayed in the coldest room.
Firefighters eventually reached the stricken family at 3am and led them to safety.
The death toll after the tragedy has now risen to 17 and fire bosses have warned the number of people killed could be more than 100.
There are still 17 people fighting for their lives in hospital, with dozens more injured, including nine firefighters.
Other acts of extreme bravery have been reported during the desperate escape from the flames.
Hero dad Marcio Gomes had fled the burning building holding onto his 12-year-old daughter.
But in the confusion the pair were separated. The 38-year-old raced back into the flames to carry his daughter to safety.
And 16-year-old Ines Alves fled the tower block carrying only her mobile phone and GCSE revision notes before heading into school to sit her chemistry exam.
Respect to those people. It’s not easy to keep your wits about you in such extreme circumstances let alone people who’ve lived in survival mode for months and years e.g. living in class categorized ‘poverty’ (not necessarily squalor, there is such a thing as the ‘proud poor’ whose floors you could metaphorically ‘eat your dinner off’) and under the breadline. Adrenaline and fear are helpful in temporary emergencies for adequate to lifesaving fight or flight, escape or evade instinct but that refers to minutes and hours – after years of depressing situation and conflict/frustration your conditioned behaviours can get in the way because you’ve been numbed/blunted.
The turnout has been amazing, people have really come together to support the victims it’s just a shame that it takes something like this to see community spirit of this level – a level that can get something done, a level that if we were all working for consistently there wouldn’t be a small number of people causing like these events in the first place or exacerbating their chances. The death toll as I write this stands at approx 17-30 but that is really downplaying the estimated figure; as per eye witness accounts the emergency services have left dead bodies in clear body bags on the lower floors of the building shell for all to see instead of immediate removal to morgues etc, some bodies will unlikely be found, others charred beyond recognition and in a 120 flat block with numerous bedrooms, residents, pets and guests a full body count is difficult and probably weeks away. Reports can’t even agree as to whether the tower had 24 or 27 storeys, a relatively simple thing you’d think but then it was part of a 3 building complex, apparently the last one in the regeneration and the ‘ghetto’ one. In my opinion it should have been demolished and residents moved until new accommodation was made and given guaranteed places in that new development. However if the site is to be used for commercial property residents should have been paid out and/or given better accommodation nearby. Instead they got a shoddy, cheap refurb and then lost almost everything in a fire that was supposedly caused by a fridge. In any other building that wouldn’t have happened, your fridge might somehow develop a fault that would somehow cause it to explode… Really? And then 24-27 storeys would go up in flames in less than 2 hours with half the side up in flames than less than one and by the end of it the whole building is a carcass… No. The original and perhaps a few surrounding flats would go at the most and people and pets/service animals should be evacuated not left to jump our of windows, throw babies out of windows ten storeys up and hope someone (not even a firefighter) would catch it, wave out of a window and get rescued 10 hours later, flood their flats etc. I’m really hoping the land doesn’t end up in commercial hands after this, that would be such an evil mockery. We have ‘tent cities’/refugee style camps in the UK, in London for god-sake – on top of our already increasingly homeless population – who’d have thought that would happen? One of the most expensive cities in the world where we moan about immigration, refugees and asylum seekers all the time whilst the poorest countries in the world take the bulk and then look we do it to our own. Nice. Not.
http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/uk-news/lily-allen-grenfell-tower-interview-13193449 [My Comment – Go Lily, some great quotes there and the article has poignant commentary on Theresa May’s ridiculous behaviour and address towards people:]
“I feel like the government are trying to micromanage people’s grieving here.”
“I have never in my entire life seen an event like this were the death count has been downplayed by the mainstream media.
“Seventeen? I’m sorry but I am hearing from people the figure is much closer to 150 – and that many of those people are children.
“They are off-the-record numbers I have been given from policemen and from firemen.”
“The humanitarian effort on the ground here, the volunteering, which is being led by community leaders and volunteers, it is not being led by the council, it’s being run by the people of this community,” she said.
“It is chaotic, they don’t have any experience of it and I think it’s actually playing into the hands of the Government because once these people’s hope turns to anger, they have got a real problem on their hands.
She said there was no attempt from the council to bind the rich and poor residents in the borough, home to council flats among some of the most expensive properties in the world.
She said the council had instead driven them apart – by closing community centres and pubs in favour of posher versions.
[My Comment – That’s exactly what I was wondering; where are all the millionaires, multi-millionaires and billionaires (oh wait they’re sitting on and funding boards and sponsoring/lobbying legislation that causes things like this) though I did see Adele in pictures yesterday and the royals just had to do their PR stint today but then unlike Theresa May they have plenty of practise winning over people after Diana’s fiery death/sacrifice, Charles’ indiscretion although it was an arranged marriage in part to produce acceptable heirs, remarriage, Harry’s behaviour growing up, William’s baldness/loss of his mother’s looks and bobble headed super glued smile wife and their offspring – people who will never ever and have never ever had to worry about such things but show up at every letter opening to prove their in touch with the people and know how they feel whilst really being as detached as possible and the biggest ‘welfare spongers’ on the planet whilst making money and resources left, right and centre. They even braved the ash/smoke to get their practised facial expressions in and ruin their luxury designer clothing. As some people have been saying – there’s plenty of space in Buckingham Palace or any of the Royal/Public funded/paid to visit households.]
Prime Minister Theresa May had earlier faced criticism for failing to meet survivors when she visited the scene of the blaze.
Mrs May met police and firefighters dealing with the aftermath of the disaster during a private visit to the west London site, but unlike Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, she was not seen to speak to families and residents.
“She wanted an entirely controlled situation in which she didn’t use her humanity.
“The Prime Minister would have been shouted at by the residents, but she should have been willing to take that.”
In a message on Twitter, Ms [Harriet] Harman said: “Theresa May should have met Grenfell Fire residents. She should have been prepared to listen to them Not OK to speak at them via TV.”
It seems Ms May went for a ‘professional’ briefing, pep talk and a look at the victims only not to talk with them like a human being.
Grenfell Tower: Lily Allen accuses the media of ‘downplaying’ death toll
Most publications have been reporting official death counts from the Met
On Twitter, she retweeted users saying: “Death toll of #grenfelltower being suppressed by UK MSM” and “when i was down there they said well into triple figures so is probably even more than 150.good on you for telling some truth”