No real idea which thread this belongs in, but it's undoubtedly political in nature and deserves as wide an audience as possible imho. He got me anyway.
Below is a post from former chief fire officer from Derbyshire fire and rescue (very good and highly respected chief)
Who’d be a fire chief?
Who’d be a firefighter?
I’ve not read the Grenfell Inquiry yet. Something to look forward to next week.
As a firefighter, you spend decades being told to follow procedures and training. They work, fires get put out, you get to go home safely.
You are told you did a good job, you are audited and the auditors tell you that you are competent and professional. It is reaffirming and reassuring.
Step outside those procedures and you fail your assessment, you are not competent. You don’t want to be there.
All these procedures are written to tackle fire in buildings built to a regulated standard.
The building is supposed to behave in a predictable way. Arm Chair enthusiasts would imagine that fire is not predictable. Well, you are wrong, it is a matter of scientific fact that fire develops and behaves predictably depending on the fuel, air and environment.
That is why firefighters can have standard operating procedures (SOPs) that for the most part work and do the job. If fire was unpredictable you could not have an SOP.
For decades building regs worked and we never suffered a Grenfell even in the 80 and 90s when there were 40% more fires than we have today.
Likelihood and severity, you’ve heard these banded around. In the nineties the likelihood was massive but it seems nowadays the severity has mushroomed as whole buildings are burning down on a regular basis.
If you ever drove through Salford in the 90s a single burnt-out flat was a common sight as you looked up at the high rise buildings. Like a broken tooth.
A fire put out using tried and tested procedure in a building designed to contain the fire to the flat of origin. Most people in the other flats wouldn’t even know that a fire had occurred until the morning after.
No common fire alarm, no mobile phones yet a successful outcome and no mass evacuation.
Because the buildings were not wrapped in flammable material allowing unchecked spread up the facade and ingress through windows.
Because the internal separation was solid and fire-resistant, because mostly the fire doors unless vandalised worked.
At this time the fire brigade was the responsible authority for fire legislation. We issued fire certificates and our word was law.
Admittedly we didn’t issue certs on domestic property but such was our regulatory power in other premises the local authority building control accepted that we knew what we were about and went with our recommendation
All that changed through deregulation at the end of the 90s. (The reform act of 2005 in fact). I was in fire protection at the time and I remember the old hands predicting a disaster.
It was like giving the kids the keys to the sweet shop. Building owners were now (2006) responsible for the fire safety standards in the same way a manager is responsible for health and safety at work. Some do it well, some do it badly, some do what they can afford and hope it’s enough.
Well, it’s not good enough and it is coming home to roost.
As a chief, you expect your firefighters to follow the policy and be competent, you have the dubious pleasure of being ultimately responsible for making sure that this is the case. It is a massive responsibility, you do your best. You audit the boys and girls to death. They are sick of being assessed. But they are safe, competent and they go home at the end of the shift.
Imagine turning up at a building where everything has gone wrong the whole fire protection system had failed and the fire is spreading through what should be concrete fire-resistant rooms and up the outside beyond your capability to reach it.
You now need to tell 200 firefighters to forget everything they ever learned and do things completely outside of every procedure they have trained on. Things that could get them killed. It’s a miracle none were.
Every fibre in your body is screaming to do something new and evacuate whilst every professional brain cell is saying “are you mad” if you evacuate the people in the flats with no breathing apparatus they are doomed and it will be seen to have been your call.
Evacuating a burning building means taking people from what you understand to be a place of relative safety (or at least it should be if built right) and asking them to enter smoke-filled corridors and stairs knowing some won’t make it. We are talking about people of all ages and abilities here. Your mum, your grandad, your kids.
What would you do?
How brave are you now sitting in your armchair with the daily mail sword drawn about to slay the guilty?
Making life and death decisions outside of policy because a building had been let slide as a result of a succession of systematic governmental failure, safe in the knowledge that if you lose one firefighter or members of the public are found in stairwells dead you will be squarely in the frame of “going outside of procedure”.
Not so easy is it.
It is no surprise that candidates for chief fire officers jobs total one or two per position when advertised these days.
I stand with Dany Cotton and I stand with London Fire Brigade.
I look forward to part two of the report that looks at root cause including building regs and I sincerely hope the author does his job properly.
I hope everyone understands that firefighters turn up when everyone else’s risk assessment had gone wrong and are tasked with sorting out the mess.
We are not chefs, a missed instruction does not result in a ruined dish. We have to take what ingredients we have been given and bake a cake on the hoof whilst the kitchen is on fire and then have some armchair baker who may have watched his mum make a jam tart once tell us how well we have done.
Don’t get me started on sprinklers. I’ve been vocal, been on the telly, been sat in front of ministers with hard evidence to prove the case and been fobbed off.
Politics is at the root of Grenfell, I doubt any politician will be vilified in the way firefighters and chiefs have this week
Who’d be a chief?
Who’d be a firefighter now?