Many of us watched in horror as the flames raced up the 24 stories of the Grenfell Tower in London, as firemen desperately tried to find and save individuals in the dense smoke, and where the death toll is now 79 (and may still be rising). Much has been written about this already, and with the inquiries now launched, more will be written. We will, hopefully, find out the details of this particular infrastructure failure. In the meantime there are two areas to consider.
1. Technical issues and organisation (this is probably our first departure point).
“Sprinklers would have saved lives. Fire stops that should have protected the internal means of escape may have been faulty or missing. The gas supply lines are under suspicion. The Grenfell Action Group had presciently warned of a lack of fire safety instructions. 999 operators fatally stuck to the official advice that people should stay in their homes, which makes sense when the building regulations are doing their job of containing fires within a single flat, but not when the whole building is engulfed. Compartmentalised thinking – the inability of any one agency to see the whole picture – played a role. It’s likely, as often in major disasters, that it was the cumulative and multiplying effect of several factors that made it so terrible.” Guardian columnist, Rowan Moore
cf. Post on The Titanic and Apollo 7 on June 13
2. Social Attitudes
“I have sat in council meetings where comments from leading majority councillors have shown a total lack of empathy or even respect for those not born to a world where basic human comforts and a good education are givens. I have heard – and noted – comments stating that social tenants should simply move away if they don’t like what they’ve been “given”. As if social housing was not a public good but some kind of privilege to which they are not really entitled. Alongside this has been a slow but deterministic programme of privatising and monetising public assets such as schools, libraries and community and public space.” Local Councillor, Emma Dent Coad, writing in The Guardian
cf Post on Gentrification in Infrastructure and Progress June 16.