FOLLOW BOREME
TAGS
<< Back to listing
Why did the fire at Grenfell Tower spread so quickly?

Why did the fire at Grenfell Tower spread so quickly?

(4:23) Could polyethylene cladding be to blame for the Grenfell Tower fire spreading so quickly? Chris Cook looks at some of the early evidence on what happened.

Share this post

You can comment as a guest, but registering gives you added benefits

Add your comment
Submit as guest (your name)

Copy code captcha


Submit as member (username / password)

CANCEL
COncernedCitizen COncernedCitizen (11 days ago)

A stay put policy -- WTF?

In the USA, we have evacuation policies. There are fire alarms in every building including residental homes and the policy is to evacuate all the time. We even have practice sessions that are not announced to the employees ahead of time. So when the fire alarm goes off, they calculate how long it takes all the people to get out. If it's too long, we work to figure out why and fix the problem. Hopefully the next test will produce better results.

Even the handicapped and disabled are evacuated during test fire alarms. There are special plans in place to help them get out and it is a written plan. All the elevators are disabled during fire alarms so everyone goes down the steps including the handicapped so for each person that requires assistance, there are special devices that allows a helper to get those people down the steps. LINK

Original comment

A stay put policy -- WTF?

In the USA, we have evacuation policies. There are fire alarms in every building including residental homes and the policy is to evacuate all the time. We even have practice sessions that are not announced to the employees ahead of time. So when the fire alarm goes off, they calculate how long it takes all the people to get out. If it's too long, we work to figure out why and fix the problem. Hopefully the next test will produce better results.

Even the handicapped and disabled are evacuated during test fire alarms. There are special plans in place to help them get out and it is a written plan. All the elevators are disabled during fire alarms so everyone goes down the steps including the handicapped so for each person that requires assistance, there are special devices that allows a helper to get those people down the steps. LINK

Add your reply
Submit as guest (your name)

Copy code captcha


Submit as member (username / password)

CANCEL
Guest: FactCheck. (11 days ago)

Wow the USA must be a really civilized and safe place to live. Europe has so much to learn from you.

Joke.

I see your game. You're on some dare to try and be wrong about a new topic every day. You can cross today off. "There are fire alarms in every building" LOL

The USA as with most things has inconsistent and incoherent legislation that varies wildly from state to state. 34 states have no smoke and fire regulation whatsoever - really shocking. In those that do have it, much of it only applies within certain cities, or to new builds, or to those trying to sell a house. More states have CO legislation than fire legislation ( Fire Safety Laws, Kidde dot com, read state by state legislation ). Despite catastrophes like the Oakland Warehouse fire (36 dead), and the Station Nightclub fire (100 dead), sprinkler systems and smoke alarms are still not mandatory across the USA.

The NFPA state that in high-rise buildings, "occupants... might be instructed to stay where they are and await further instruction", and the so-called 'remain-in-place' strategy is a common alternative to evacuation in the USA. (NFPA, 'Emergency Action Plan High-Rise' available as pdf).

All rented accommodation in the UK must have smoke alarms fitted and checked. Someone will end up in prison over Grenfell and rightly so.

Original comment

Wow the USA must be a really civilized and safe place to live. Europe has so much to learn from you.

Joke.

I see your game. You're on some dare to try and be wrong about a new topic every day. You can cross today off. "There are fire alarms in every building" LOL

The USA as with most things has inconsistent and incoherent legislation that varies wildly from state to state. 34 states have no smoke and fire regulation whatsoever - really shocking. In those that do have it, much of it only applies within certain cities, or to new builds, or to those trying to sell a house. More states have CO legislation than fire legislation ( Fire Safety Laws, Kidde dot com, read state by state legislation ). Despite catastrophes like the Oakland Warehouse fire (36 dead), and the Station Nightclub fire (100 dead), sprinkler systems and smoke alarms are still not mandatory across the USA.

The NFPA state that in high-rise buildings, "occupants... might be instructed to stay where they are and await further instruction", and the so-called 'remain-in-place' strategy is a common alternative to evacuation in the USA. (NFPA, 'Emergency Action Plan High-Rise' available as pdf).

All rented accommodation in the UK must have smoke alarms fitted and checked. Someone will end up in prison over Grenfell and rightly so.

Add your reply
Submit as guest (your name)

Copy code captcha


Submit as member (username / password)

CANCEL
COncernedCitizen COncernedCitizen (11 days ago)

"'remain-in-plac e' strategy is a common alternative to evacuation in the USA." Sorry but I find that ridiculous. You should call it "policy to stay and die". What's wrong with evacuating and trying to get to a safe place? It seems the smartest thing to do. If my buliding was on fire, I'm evacuating. There's no way in hell I'm staying regardless of policy. They could arrest me for evacuating if they want but I'm leaving.

"Hey buddy, what did you get arrested for?"

"I evacuated a building that was on fire."

Original comment

"'remain-in-plac e' strategy is a common alternative to evacuation in the USA." Sorry but I find that ridiculous. You should call it "policy to stay and die". What's wrong with evacuating and trying to get to a safe place? It seems the smartest thing to do. If my buliding was on fire, I'm evacuating. There's no way in hell I'm staying regardless of policy. They could arrest me for evacuating if they want but I'm leaving.

"Hey buddy, what did you get arrested for?"

"I evacuated a building that was on fire."

Add your reply
Submit as guest (your name)

Copy code captcha


Submit as member (username / password)

CANCEL
Guest: (11 days ago)

I wasn't commenting on whether your policies are a good idea. I was pointing out that they are your (US) policies, so you were wrong. Again.

Being devil's advocate, I can imagine why you might not want the entire population of a high rise building immediately trying to evacuate at the sound of an alarm because it impedes the people who genuinely do need to evacuate.

Original comment

I wasn't commenting on whether your policies are a good idea. I was pointing out that they are your (US) policies, so you were wrong. Again.

Being devil's advocate, I can imagine why you might not want the entire population of a high rise building immediately trying to evacuate at the sound of an alarm because it impedes the people who genuinely do need to evacuate.

Add your reply
Submit as guest (your name)

Copy code captcha


Submit as member (username / password)

CANCEL
COncernedCitizen COncernedCitizen (11 days ago)

Try to answer this question honestly. If the policy was to evacuate whenever there is a fire, would the 30 people that died and the 70 people unaccounted for still be alive today?

During the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the building was evacuated except for people that were above the fire since they had no way of leaving. How many more people would have died if they had a policy to stay?

Original comment

Try to answer this question honestly. If the policy was to evacuate whenever there is a fire, would the 30 people that died and the 70 people unaccounted for still be alive today?

During the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the building was evacuated except for people that were above the fire since they had no way of leaving. How many more people would have died if they had a policy to stay?

Add your reply
Submit as guest (your name)

Copy code captcha


Submit as member (username / password)

CANCEL
WalterEgo WalterEgo (11 days ago)

'Stay in place' does make sense as long as other safety regulations are in place. The thinking goes like this. Fires in high-rise blocks should be contained long enough for emergency services to arrive and deal with it. If the building is evacuating when firefighters arrive, the stairs will be blocked by panicking families coming down, hindering access to the fire for firefighters. If buildings are fitted with sprinklers and fire doors, then fires can be contained until firefighters arrive.

Which sounds fine, except reality is never that simple. In this case, the outer cladding, which was recently added to prettify the building, was not fire proof. It was a hot night, so many windows and doors were open. Once the cladding caught, fire raced up the side of the building entering the upper floors through the open windows - and within minutes, the building was a raging inferno.

Would fewer people have died if the policy was to evacuate? Maybe, but there are probably many cases where evacuation would have hindered firefighters and resulted in more deaths.

Overall, I'd go for a 'stay in place' policy in conjunction with sensible strong safety regulations that are properly enforced. For example, that cladding is banned in Germany. Why not ban it here too?

Original comment

'Stay in place' does make sense as long as other safety regulations are in place. The thinking goes like this. Fires in high-rise blocks should be contained long enough for emergency services to arrive and deal with it. If the building is evacuating when firefighters arrive, the stairs will be blocked by panicking families coming down, hindering access to the fire for firefighters. If buildings are fitted with sprinklers and fire doors, then fires can be contained until firefighters arrive.

Which sounds fine, except reality is never that simple. In this case, the outer cladding, which was recently added to prettify the building, was not fire proof. It was a hot night, so many windows and doors were open. Once the cladding caught, fire raced up the side of the building entering the upper floors through the open windows - and within minutes, the building was a raging inferno.

Would fewer people have died if the policy was to evacuate? Maybe, but there are probably many cases where evacuation would have hindered firefighters and resulted in more deaths.

Overall, I'd go for a 'stay in place' policy in conjunction with sensible strong safety regulations that are properly enforced. For example, that cladding is banned in Germany. Why not ban it here too?

Add your reply
Submit as guest (your name)

Copy code captcha


Submit as member (username / password)

CANCEL
COncernedCitizen COncernedCitizen (11 days ago)

Thank you for your honest opinion. My opinion differs, of course, but that's okay.

Edit: By the way, our exit stairs in tall buildings are wide enough to allow for fire fighters to enter while people are exiting. It's been a long time since I worked in one of those buildings but I think I remember them stating you use the inside of the staircase to allow the outside of the staircase for firemen. But this is why you practice frequently with test fire alarms.

Original comment

Thank you for your honest opinion. My opinion differs, of course, but that's okay.

Edit: By the way, our exit stairs in tall buildings are wide enough to allow for fire fighters to enter while people are exiting. It's been a long time since I worked in one of those buildings but I think I remember them stating you use the inside of the staircase to allow the outside of the staircase for firemen. But this is why you practice frequently with test fire alarms.

Add your reply
Submit as guest (your name)

Copy code captcha


Submit as member (username / password)

CANCEL
WalterEgo WalterEgo (11 days ago)

I can't think of any stairs in high-rise blocks anywhere that I've experienced that would work smoothly for 2-way traffic, especially when you consider the people coming down are going to be of all ages, shapes and abilities.

Then, if the fire is at night, the stairs will be dark, so the scenario could be panicking people tripping over each other.

And as people open doors of their flats and the staircase, that allows air in to fuel the fire, or air out and cause a draft sucking the smoke up into the staircase.

The more I think about it, the more I think 'stay in place' makes sense. A fire drill could be - if you are on the floor of the fire, evacuate. If not, shut all doors and windows, check neighbours are aware of the fire, and distribute the fire extinguishers. Each flat should have at least one fire extinguisher, and there should be some in the hallway.

I wonder what the stats are for 'stay in place' vs evacuation policies. I can't be bothered to look it up right now, but you like stats - maybe you can check it out?

Original comment

I can't think of any stairs in high-rise blocks anywhere that I've experienced that would work smoothly for 2-way traffic, especially when you consider the people coming down are going to be of all ages, shapes and abilities.

Then, if the fire is at night, the stairs will be dark, so the scenario could be panicking people tripping over each other.

And as people open doors of their flats and the staircase, that allows air in to fuel the fire, or air out and cause a draft sucking the smoke up into the staircase.

The more I think about it, the more I think 'stay in place' makes sense. A fire drill could be - if you are on the floor of the fire, evacuate. If not, shut all doors and windows, check neighbours are aware of the fire, and distribute the fire extinguishers. Each flat should have at least one fire extinguisher, and there should be some in the hallway.

I wonder what the stats are for 'stay in place' vs evacuation policies. I can't be bothered to look it up right now, but you like stats - maybe you can check it out?

Add your reply
Submit as guest (your name)

Copy code captcha


Submit as member (username / password)

CANCEL
COncernedCitizen COncernedCitizen (11 days ago)

"Then, if the fire is at night, the stairs will be dark," I think for most commercial buildings, there are exit signs that light up battery operated. So even when the power goes out, the lights still function. If smoke is entering the staircase, then that might make it hard to see.

I would like stats showing the difference between "stay in place" and evacuate and would like to see a link to it. But I cannot imagine how evacuating could possibly cause more deaths than staying in place. It's easy to look back at any fire where people stayed and died and you would say it would have been better if they evacuated. I cannot ever look at an evacuation and say that it would have been better if they stayed because all those that did evacuate survived. Only those that stayed or didn't evacuate fast enough died.

Original comment

"Then, if the fire is at night, the stairs will be dark," I think for most commercial buildings, there are exit signs that light up battery operated. So even when the power goes out, the lights still function. If smoke is entering the staircase, then that might make it hard to see.

I would like stats showing the difference between "stay in place" and evacuate and would like to see a link to it. But I cannot imagine how evacuating could possibly cause more deaths than staying in place. It's easy to look back at any fire where people stayed and died and you would say it would have been better if they evacuated. I cannot ever look at an evacuation and say that it would have been better if they stayed because all those that did evacuate survived. Only those that stayed or didn't evacuate fast enough died.

Add your reply
Submit as guest (your name)

Copy code captcha


Submit as member (username / password)

CANCEL
WalterEgo WalterEgo (11 days ago)

'Stay in place' only works if the fire is contained. Don't forget, fires in high-rise blocks happen relatively often, but are not news because they are contained, burning out only a flat or two.

In this case, the fire was not contained because the cladding was not fire proof. That is a regulation issue. I just heard on the radio, the cladding used on Grenfell Tower is banned in Germany on buildings over 22m high (that's the height fire engines reach with ladders fully extended), and in the US for buildings over 15m. In Dubai the same cladding is used on most high-rise buildings and fire safety experts are warning of a disaster.

I can imagine a 'stay in place' policy, with training, that may have contained even the fire at Grenfell Tower with cladding. If residents on the fire floor and below closed all windows and doors before evacuating, and residents on floors above closed all windows and doors and prepared to fight the fire - prevent it coming in from the burning cladding outside - then the cladding might have burnt itself out before setting the rest of the building alight. Training would be essential because the natural instinct would be to open the windows and call for help or consider how to climb down or jump. So the strategy would be for residents to fight the fire from above, mainly by trying to suffocate it, and evacuating upwards if they are losing the battle, and fire fighters attacking the fire from the below. But of course, the problem is that in an actual fire, nobody knows what is going on, and people panic.

There is a difference between residential and commercial buildings. A residential building is inhabited 24 hours a day by all sorts - infants, pensioners, disabled, pets etc. If the whole building is destroyed, then residents who don't lose their lives, lose pretty much everything else. It's much more destructive to people's lives than if a commercial building is destroyed.

Original comment

'Stay in place' only works if the fire is contained. Don't forget, fires in high-rise blocks happen relatively often, but are not news because they are contained, burning out only a flat or two.

In this case, the fire was not contained because the cladding was not fire proof. That is a regulation issue. I just heard on the radio, the cladding used on Grenfell Tower is banned in Germany on buildings over 22m high (that's the height fire engines reach with ladders fully extended), and in the US for buildings over 15m. In Dubai the same cladding is used on most high-rise buildings and fire safety experts are warning of a disaster.

I can imagine a 'stay in place' policy, with training, that may have contained even the fire at Grenfell Tower with cladding. If residents on the fire floor and below closed all windows and doors before evacuating, and residents on floors above closed all windows and doors and prepared to fight the fire - prevent it coming in from the burning cladding outside - then the cladding might have burnt itself out before setting the rest of the building alight. Training would be essential because the natural instinct would be to open the windows and call for help or consider how to climb down or jump. So the strategy would be for residents to fight the fire from above, mainly by trying to suffocate it, and evacuating upwards if they are losing the battle, and fire fighters attacking the fire from the below. But of course, the problem is that in an actual fire, nobody knows what is going on, and people panic.

There is a difference between residential and commercial buildings. A residential building is inhabited 24 hours a day by all sorts - infants, pensioners, disabled, pets etc. If the whole building is destroyed, then residents who don't lose their lives, lose pretty much everything else. It's much more destructive to people's lives than if a commercial building is destroyed.

Add your reply
Submit as guest (your name)

Copy code captcha


Submit as member (username / password)

CANCEL
COncernedCitizen COncernedCitizen (11 days ago)

"'Stay in place' only works if the fire is contained." I can understand your point. But then the fire wasn't contained so they should have evacuated. You never know if it will be contained or not until it's too late. So the safest thing is to evacuate just in case.

Your training scenario wouldn't work. It would take just one person to open a window to allow enough air in to fuel the fire. How often will you perform those training events? People in apartments come and go every month. Training is costly and some people may have to work or go to school during the regular training hours.

"If the whole building is destroyed, then residents who don't lose their lives, lose pretty much everything else. It's much more destructive to people's lives than if a commercial build is destroyed." Not really. I have insurance for my residence. If my house burned down, I have replacement costs on everything and they will pay for me to rent somewhere while my house is being rebuilt.

I don't have insurance for my employer's building. If my company burned down, I lose my job and then I have no income. Sometimes I wish my house would burn down so I could start all over again. Imagine getting all new stuff and the clutter you build up througout the years would be all gone -- finally. But I wouldn't ever want to be without a job.

Original comment

"'Stay in place' only works if the fire is contained." I can understand your point. But then the fire wasn't contained so they should have evacuated. You never know if it will be contained or not until it's too late. So the safest thing is to evacuate just in case.

Your training scenario wouldn't work. It would take just one person to open a window to allow enough air in to fuel the fire. How often will you perform those training events? People in apartments come and go every month. Training is costly and some people may have to work or go to school during the regular training hours.

"If the whole building is destroyed, then residents who don't lose their lives, lose pretty much everything else. It's much more destructive to people's lives than if a commercial build is destroyed." Not really. I have insurance for my residence. If my house burned down, I have replacement costs on everything and they will pay for me to rent somewhere while my house is being rebuilt.

I don't have insurance for my employer's building. If my company burned down, I lose my job and then I have no income. Sometimes I wish my house would burn down so I could start all over again. Imagine getting all new stuff and the clutter you build up througout the years would be all gone -- finally. But I wouldn't ever want to be without a job.

Add your reply
Submit as guest (your name)

Copy code captcha


Submit as member (username / password)

CANCEL
Guest: (10 days ago)

The remain in place strategy doesn't mean you stay there forever, it means you stay and wait for further instruction from firefighters etc. If the fire is contained then there's no reason for the entire building to impede the entrance of firefighters by flooding the exit(s). It also allows staff and firefighters to direct people to the safest and most appropriate way out.

Your last paragraph is tragic, genuinely very sad.

Original comment

The remain in place strategy doesn't mean you stay there forever, it means you stay and wait for further instruction from firefighters etc. If the fire is contained then there's no reason for the entire building to impede the entrance of firefighters by flooding the exit(s). It also allows staff and firefighters to direct people to the safest and most appropriate way out.

Your last paragraph is tragic, genuinely very sad.

Add your reply
Submit as guest (your name)

Copy code captcha


Submit as member (username / password)

CANCEL
COncernedCitizen COncernedCitizen (10 days ago)
Latest comment:

Do you have insurance for your employer's business? Do you want to be without a job?

Original comment
Latest comment:

Do you have insurance for your employer's business? Do you want to be without a job?

Add your reply
Submit as guest (your name)

Copy code captcha


Submit as member (username / password)

CANCEL
Guest: FactCheck. (11 days ago)

So you're saying the US has dangerous fire policies in place?

Maybe.

I think those policies were probably put in place by people with a lot more experience of fire disasters than the two of us combined. What your challenge is, is to try and imagine what the benefits of that system would be. Why would you want to avoid a situation where 600 people were trying to evacuate a building at the same time through a single exit point.

At the Station Nightclub, the instinct was clearly to evacuate at once. How many people survived? How many people were killed by the crush? Is evacuate now always the best strategy for a group rather than an individual?

Questions must be answered, but we shouldn't assume there aren't good reasons for policies that seem illogical to those without the knowledge.

Original comment

So you're saying the US has dangerous fire policies in place?

Maybe.

I think those policies were probably put in place by people with a lot more experience of fire disasters than the two of us combined. What your challenge is, is to try and imagine what the benefits of that system would be. Why would you want to avoid a situation where 600 people were trying to evacuate a building at the same time through a single exit point.

At the Station Nightclub, the instinct was clearly to evacuate at once. How many people survived? How many people were killed by the crush? Is evacuate now always the best strategy for a group rather than an individual?

Questions must be answered, but we shouldn't assume there aren't good reasons for policies that seem illogical to those without the knowledge.

Add your reply
Submit as guest (your name)

Copy code captcha


Submit as member (username / password)

CANCEL
COncernedCitizen COncernedCitizen (11 days ago)

"through a single exit point." We always have more than one exit point. It's one of our Egress laws. It's code 1910.36(b)(1). But that's just the minimum. "The number of exit routes must be adequate."

Regarding the Niteclub, I think more people would have died if they stayed. Sorry, but it's true and I'm pretty sure you would agree to that.

Original comment

"through a single exit point." We always have more than one exit point. It's one of our Egress laws. It's code 1910.36(b)(1). But that's just the minimum. "The number of exit routes must be adequate."

Regarding the Niteclub, I think more people would have died if they stayed. Sorry, but it's true and I'm pretty sure you would agree to that.

Add your reply
Submit as guest (your name)

Copy code captcha


Submit as member (username / password)

CANCEL
Guest: FactCheck. (11 days ago)

Phoney or you just don't know...? Your 'egress laws' are part of Occupational Safety and Health, so only cover workplaces and not residential buildings like Grenfell.

No, "more than one exit point isn't the minimum"... OSHA laws say"A single exit route is permitted where the number of employees, the size of the building, its occupancy, or the arrangement of the workplace is such that all employees would be able to evacuate safely during an emergency." Who decides? The same kind of people that decide a 'remain-in-place' strategy is appropriate? Flawless.

In the nightclub many people were trampled to death because of everyone trying to use a single exit at the same time and no one was able to gain access. Fire panics people. It's a fact that if everyone hadn't tried to evacuate at the same time through the same exit, the death toll would have been far less.

So you said "our policy is to evacuate all the time" and it turns out you were wrong.

Then you said "we always have more than one exit point", and it turns out you were wrong.

I challenge you not to make a statement that is factually incorrect in your next reply. Feel free to look stuff up before you write.

Original comment

Phoney or you just don't know...? Your 'egress laws' are part of Occupational Safety and Health, so only cover workplaces and not residential buildings like Grenfell.

No, "more than one exit point isn't the minimum"... OSHA laws say"A single exit route is permitted where the number of employees, the size of the building, its occupancy, or the arrangement of the workplace is such that all employees would be able to evacuate safely during an emergency." Who decides? The same kind of people that decide a 'remain-in-place' strategy is appropriate? Flawless.

In the nightclub many people were trampled to death because of everyone trying to use a single exit at the same time and no one was able to gain access. Fire panics people. It's a fact that if everyone hadn't tried to evacuate at the same time through the same exit, the death toll would have been far less.

So you said "our policy is to evacuate all the time" and it turns out you were wrong.

Then you said "we always have more than one exit point", and it turns out you were wrong.

I challenge you not to make a statement that is factually incorrect in your next reply. Feel free to look stuff up before you write.

Add your reply
Submit as guest (your name)

Copy code captcha


Submit as member (username / password)

CANCEL
TheBob TheBob (11 days ago)

If my building was on fire, I'd evacuate too.

Then I'd leave the building.

Original comment

If my building was on fire, I'd evacuate too.

Then I'd leave the building.

Add your reply
Submit as guest (your name)

Copy code captcha


Submit as member (username / password)

CANCEL
RELATED POSTS
Why did the fire at Grenfell Tower spread so quickly?
Why did the fire at Grenfell Tower spread so quickly?
Kid teaches dad how to build Leonardo da Vinci bridge
Kid teaches dad how to build Leonardo da Vinci bridge
The Palace of Pebbles
The Palace of Pebbles
How to get students excited about physics
How to get students excited about physics
Icy lighthouse
Icy lighthouse