To get to the full truth of anything it's often necessary to look not just at the immediate factors but also at many other, sometimes apparently lateral or even non-conformist, issues which, when joined up can reveal an even bigger truth. And where people and money are concerned, it's prudent to assume there is more than a little interest in both obscuring the dots themselves and making sure they don't get joined up.
So far at least, the Grenfell Inquiry, Hackitt Review and independent experts panel has done very little dot-joining. Pretty much every subject is treated as if separate. For example, while cladding has been massively focussed on, no one has looked at the links between it and furniture, carpets, curtains, bedding. One such link being that they are all fuel sources; another that they often contain flame retardant chemicals. With the Grenfell residents currently very concerned about how their health has been affected by the toxicity of the fire, and given that when flame retardant chemicals burn they massively increase toxic fumes/smoke, you would have thought this was an obvious step to take. Yet instead we get the government and the council so far failing to even look for toxicity in soil, debris, human blood, etc, claiming (apparently clairvoyantly) that they do not need to because toxicity is 'low'.
There is a group of us working on joining the dots, however. And for the purposes of this blog I thought I'd give just one example. Below, to this end, I've put together some facts and quotes, along with a few background points that may or may not be relevant. In short, I'll lay down some dots and leave it to the reader to join them, or not. Please bear in mind that these are just a few of the dots within the overall picture, one that is shaping much of what goes on, or doesn't, at the Grenfell Inquiry.
"THERE IS supposed to be an ancient Chinese curse, which reads: ‘May you live in interesting times’. After the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower last year, those of us in the fire industry have certainly been ‘living in interesting times’. The curse appeared to point its crooked finger at me when I was forced to resign from my previous job, although in the end resignation gave me the opportunity to take up the challenging – but very rewarding – role of head of the special projects group (SPG) at the FPA [Fire Protection Association]."
'Fire Brigades Union safety expert David Sibert has said: “The principle that tower blocks are built on is that every flat is a fire-resisting box, every flat is completely surrounded by fire-resisting construction from the rest of the building. So you should be able to set fire to your own flat and leave it to completely burn out and it won’t affect anybody else in the building.”' Guardian, 12 July 2017
'Dave Sibert, the Fire Brigades Union’s fire safety adviser and chairman of a national committee on fire safety standards, told the newspaper that if the "stay put" advice was not in place during the incident, some of the 60-plus people saved may have been injured or worse if they were fleeing the building.' The Sun, 25 May 2018
'We do not agree that firefighters on the ground had concluded within 10 minutes that nobody should stay in their flats to await rescue. We simply do not know the evidence at this stage. There is no evidence that we are aware of so far that any such policy was scrapped within 10 minutes. We are aware that residents were actually rescued from their flats until very late into the incident.' FBU press release 25 May, 2018
3.58 STAY PUT STRATEGY
STRATEGY NORMALLY ADOPTED IN BLOCKS OF FLATS AND MAISONETTES WHEREBY, WHEN A FIRE OCCURS IN A FLAT OR MAISONETTE, THE OCCUPANTS OF THAT DWELLING EVACUATE, BUT OCCUPANTS OF ALL OTHER DWELLINGS CAN SAFELY REMAIN IN THEIR DWELLINGS UNLESS DIRECTLY AFFECTED BY HEAT AND SMOKE OR DIRECTED TO LEAVE BY THE FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE
SOURCE: BS 9991
There is a contradiction here with his earlier statements to the press, i.e. the standard BS 9991 says the Stay Put policy should 'normally' be adopted, whereas Sibert had earlier insisted it applies to 'every flat'.
The standard goes on to say that people should stay put (if the fire is in another flat) unless directly affected by heat or smoke. Again, Sibert earlier is very clear that you must stay put whatever, even stating that any flat that is on fire can completely burn out and it 'won't affect anybody else in the building'.
He appears to be using the standard to set up his change of direction since later in the presentation he states:
Neither of these two points was made by him before. But they nicely backwards-cover the emerging evidence at Grenfell, i.e. that 'stay put no matter what' was the wrong policy.
Then he comes up with a statement that contradicts his new view but which is perhaps intended to exonerate his previous view:
WHEN FIRE SPREADS THROUGH A POORLY BUILT HIGH RISE RESIDENTIAL BUILDING, FIREFIGHTERS MAY HAVE TO SAY TO RESIDENTS STAY WHERE YOU ARE, WE WILL DO OUR BEST TO RESCUE YOU
'May' is probably significant here in that it creates wriggle room for him. But to repeat his earlier post-Grenfell view:
"[Sibert] told the newspaper that if the "stay put" advice was not in place during the incident, some of the 60-plus people saved may have been injured or worse if they were fleeing the building."
He's very clearly stating that more people would have died at Grenfell if they had not stayed put and instead tried to flee the building. Yet everyone, including the FBU, always knew that Grenfell Tower was a 'poorly built high rise residential building' of which Sibert now says a stay put policy cannot 'be applied'. Back to 'may' again.
I'll end with another of Sibert's slides which pretty much sums up the massive contradictions between Sibert's earlier and later views on Stay Put:
Two ‘classes’ of high rise residential building