Grenfell fire training exercise cancelled ‘days before’ fire
THE INQUIRY into the fire heard that an exercise scheduled for 8 June 2017 was ‘shelved’ after it clashed with another at a London prison.
Recently, the inquiry began looking at the ‘factual narrative’ of the events, with expert witnesses describing the various safety failures in the tower and a ‘culture of non compliance’. After the inquiry resumed once more, a fire station manager stated that ‘vital’ plans for the tower were not able to be found in the lobby of the building. It then heard from 999 operators that due to a policy not to recontact callers, residents were not told to evacuate when policy changed.
Most recently, one of the fire commanders stated that ‘the building let us all down’, and commissioner Dany Cotton admitted that she had no knowledge of cladding risks despite a London Fire Brigade (LFB) presentation created only a year before the fire. Now, Huffington Post has reported on the testimony of watch manager Dean Ricketts, who stated that the ‘complexities of the basement’ at Grenfell Tower would have been a ‘suitable venue’ for a training exercise.
This was planned for 8 June ‘less than a week before the deadly fire’, but was then cancelled as it clashed with another exercise to take place at HMP Wormwood Scrubs. Mr Ricketts, watch manager at North Kensington fire station, stated when asked why the prison exercise ‘took precedence’ over the Grenfell one that ‘you will have to ask the station manager who cancelled the exercise’.
It had been prompted by a familiarisation visit undertaken by Mr Ricketts and a North Kensington fire crew in March 2017, which aimed to ‘gather and check basic information’, and record it on LFB’s operational risk database (ORD) so a tactical plan could be created. Because of a ‘large number’ of residents entering and leaving Grenfell at the time, the crew ‘were unable to test the controls of the fireman’s lifts’, and were ‘unable to locate’ a premises information box.
This would have contained information ‘useful to’ LFB in an emergency, such as floor plans, evacuation strategies and procedures as well as instructions for the mechanical ventilation systems. Mr Ricketts recorded on the ORD the ‘absence of the premises information box’ within the building’s lobby, and noted concerns about restricted access for appliances and emergency vehicles ‘in the immediate area around the tower’.
During the visit, he had reported having ‘absolutely no communication problems’, but admitted that he ‘did not venture’ up the tower to test radios, and had been focusing on the basement ‘because it did not seem to have been picked up on previous visits’.