Grenfell smoke vents show management’s ‘incompetence and indifference’

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The Grenfell Tower smoke control system standard shows the “incompetence and indifference” of the building management organization and its advisers, a public inquiry said.

Investigation into the June 2017 fire in the West Tower of London, which killed 72 people, found that a fire in the 24-story building in April 2010 revealed some concerns about the self-opening vents ( AOV).

Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organization (KCTMO) has been appointed by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) to manage its social housing stock.

Adrian Williamson QC, representing the bereaved, survivors and residents, told the inquest: “The smoke control system (SVS) is yet another story of incompetence and indifference on the part of the TMO and its members. advisers.

“The SVS has a long and turbulent history dating back to its initial construction of neglect and non-compliance.

“This story is interrupted by a serious fire in 2010 and the catastrophic fire of 2017.”

The Grenfell Memorial Wall (Jonathan Brady / PA)

Resident Sayeda Ahmed eventually inhaled smoke from the April 2010 fire and made his way to the building.

Mr Williamson said lawyers for RBKC wrote to Ms Ahmed’s legal team stating “that they are prepared to admit that on the date of the fire in which we are concerned, the detection system of ‘fire that was in place at Grenfell Tower was defective and therefore they are prepared to accept responsibility for your customer’s claim’.

Janice Wray, Health and Safety Advisor at KCTMO, sent an email to the London Fire Brigade (LFB) in which she said ‘in retrospect the delay should have caused us to reflect on any interim measures needed until ” that repairs are carried out. completed and the system was fully operational again ”.

Mr Williamson described this period mentioned by Ms Wray as a ‘period in which repair work had been necessary, had not progressed, had not been carried out in time and had not been carried out before l ‘April 2010 fire’.

He told the board of inquiry that none of this information had been passed on to the fire risk assessor and added that “this was a typical example of laxity and bad behavior. TMO management ”.

Stephanie Barwise QC, also representing the bereaved, survivors and residents, said PSB, a company that has installed a smoke control system in the block, has been given an opportunity to justify their system.

She said that the PSB had since April 2018 “to explain the basis of its design and yet did not”.

She added that it is not clear whether the PSB consulted an independent expert to counter the opinions that were given to the investigation.

People watch the tributes outside the nearby Notting Hill Methodist Church after the Grenfell Tower fire.  (Yui Mok / PA).
People watch the tributes outside the nearby Notting Hill Methodist Church after the Grenfell Tower fire. (Yui Mok / PA).

Lee Bennett QC, for PSB, told the investigation that the system the company created for the Grenfell Tower was a reasonable design response and complied with building regulations.

Looking ahead to the potentially critical expert opinion that could be presented to the inquiry, Bennett added: “The PSB anticipates that some aspects of the future evidence will be difficult for them. “

He said: “This work has been under intense scrutiny for years now and it may be that some aspects of his work on the Grenfell Tower project could have been done better.”

He acknowledged that the paperwork and record keeping was “less than optimal” with respect to the test and commissioning process, but PSB believes these issues have been satisfactorily addressed.

“Our position is that when PSB left the site in April 2016, the system was working as expected,” Bennett said.

He added that the system was designed “for a fire in a single apartment on a single floor, not to cope with the undeniable catastrophic fire and its devastating consequences which occurred at the Tower on June 14, 2017” .

Martin Seaward QC, for the Fire Brigades Union, asked the Board of Inquiry to find that firefighting activities were quite as planned in the early stages of the fire and should have been allowed in the design of smoke control systems, but were not.

He said there were failures in the design, commissioning, installation and maintenance of the smoke control system.

The work of the firefighters was made “impossible” because of failures in the active and passive fire protection systems inside the tower, according to Seaward.

He said there were many fire doors that weren’t self-closing or fire resistant, as well as fire controls that didn’t work, so the elevators couldn’t be used. for fire fighting and evacuation. The floor numbers in the stairs and halls were covered and unclear, and the emergency lighting was not working properly.

The hearing was adjourned to Thursday at 10 a.m.

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