I think it was 2009 when power was cut to our building because a bushfire burned through a major electricity cable somewhere in the state. I was stuck in a lift with a famous bearded media person's then wife and a building cleaner. Famous bearded media person is now a politician. I subsequently learnt that the lift emergency lighting should have lasted for twenty minutes. The lighting did last in the other lift, but our lift lighting went off after a couple of minutes. This raises the question, can we trust people who maintain safety systems? Scarily, I think not.
British Prime Minister May has announced an enquiry into the fire. There is no need. It is obvious as to what happened, and it was serious lack of care and negligence by the local council, underlined by poor government regulation and poor inspection standards .
I have read enough to make a conclusion that in Britain, well some parts of it, the fire regulations are quite unique. That is, do not evacuate when there is a fire. Each flat is self contained, insulated from fire in another flat. In the case of this Grenfell Tower fire, there was only one stair set and firefighters did not want to be blocked as they attend a fire by residents streaming down the stairs and out of the building. Remember, each flat is fire protected from a fire in another flat.
But what seems to have happened in the recent renovation of Grenfell Tower is that the individual boxing or isolation of individual flats was breached, extremely. Add to that, the installation of an outer covering with panels of aluminum on the outside and a flammable material between the panels, it ending up being a recipe for disaster.
These panels put on buildings in renovations are used to improve the building's insulation. At times panels are attached directly to the building, which can cause mould and damp issues, and at times there is an air gap.
I suggest that any old high rise building that undergoes a major renovation should have a sprinkler and stair positive air pressure system, at the very least. Sprinklers cost and they can be ugly when retrofitted, but at least you don't die.
The panels that clad Grenfell Towers were two sheets of aluminium with an synthetic insulating material in between the sheets. The synthetic material was not fire resistant. In cold climates is a cheaper way of insulating buildings. Here in Australia where we don't need such insulation from the cold. It is used for aesthetic/cheap/developer profits purposes.
Now you tell me if I am not talking commonsense. How on earth around the whole world are the exteriors of tall buildings allowed to be clad with a combustible material that can race flames up the exteriors of a building in minutes???
In my city, we have seen a non fatal example of the problem. In Britain, we see a very fatal result.
Around the world of big business has been let off the leash and indulged in such poor construction and renovation in the guise of a reduction of red tape for capitalism. There was a time when strict regulation was needed and required. Yet even back in the 70s, buildings like Grenfell Towers were built without sprinkler systems when it was very obvious that sprinklers were being installed in some buildings.
Not that Australia can be holier than thou, but what happened in London is a disgrace. Sixty people dead? One hundred dead? It is a moot point. That the block went up like a bonfire is damning to all levels of government and the building trade involved.
Britain knows well the dangers of fire. The Great London Fire in the 1600s. Bradford stadium fire....so many dead. The Kings Cross Station escalator fire, again so many dead. It is a criminal disgrace and well have the police launched a criminal investigation.