The Telegraph: Eight Failures at Grenfell Tower Inferno
Much has been written in the last two days about the fire at the London tragedy at Grenfell Tower, but The Telegraph, a British paper, has put together a scathing article outlining eight failures that led to such a fast and horrible loss of life. You can read the entire article here, but below is a summary of the devastating list.
1. A change in the law: Until 1986, all towers had to have one hour of fire resistance walls. But the law was changed, eliminating that crucial wording, and only required that the walls not add to the spreading heat and flames. But, in fact, the new law did not even require the materials to be non-combustible.
2. Dangerous cladding: 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.”
3. No government review: After a 2009 fire that killed six in a tower, new recommendations from a 2013 government inquest were presented, stating that 4000 structures in London needed to be investigated. Grenfell Tower was never reviewed.
4. A single staircase: Despite being twenty stories tall, only a single staircase ran the height of the building, creating an obvious blockage hazard.
5. Missing sprinklers: 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.
6. Missing fire doors: 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".
7. Inspections: 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--such as the addition of cladding. The regulations do not specify how soon that inspection must take place.
8. Firebreaks: Fires on outside of cladded buildings should have been controlled by firebreaks - gaps in the external envelope to prevent the continual burning of material. However, 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.”