[SystemSafety] Communications are Critical

Peter Bernard Ladkin ladkin at causalis.com
Fri Nov 1 13:54:06 CET 2019

This week on Wednesday, the report of Phase 1 of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry was published.

Amongst other things, Sir Martin Moore-Bick said there was "compelling evidence" that the use of the
Arconic Reynobond PE cladding panels enhanced the spread of the fire, and explained qualitatively
how. (Manufacturers are not mentioned by name: "ACM cladding" is used throughout.)

Phase 1 concerns what happened, not only how the fire started and spread but the emergency response.

The exact design and construction used in the refurbishment will be considered in Phase 2.

A great deal is made of the failed communications between various units of the emergency response:
between the helicopter and the LFS, between the 999 call-receivers in the control room, and the fire
service units at the tower, and so on. Some of it was due to incompatible systems. Some of it was
due to overload and lack of contingency planning for such, say at the control room handling the 999

The coroner at the inquest for the victims of the 2017 London Bridge terrorist attack has published
a report today
There is another communications failure reported there, as in the following news article
The London Ambulance Service was quickly on the scene, but staff couldn't enter because a "hot zone"
had been declared. The police, who with the help of civilians were treating wounded as best they
could, apparently did not know of the ambulances parked nearby on Borough High Street.

As I recall, there were communications incompatibilities between responder organisations at the 2005
London bombings. However, I couldn't find much about that in the London Assembly report

There is some suggestion on p191 and thereabouts that a new system "ODPM Firelink" will improve
matters within the Fire Service, and there is talk there about the "Airwave" system.

But apparently the Airwave system failed during the 2011 riots:
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/police-radios-failed-during-august-riots-lhnnr3wdt0z (paywall - I
can't read all the article) and

I find it somehow odd that the need for load-balancing during overload situations was noted in 2005,
(the Access Overload Control plan, ACCOLC, made with commercial communications providers), but that
the 999 control room during the Grenfell fire was overloaded. One might have surmised that there
were fewer communications to be handled during Grenfell than during the bombings.

Whatever - comms during disaster response still appears to be a big deal.


Prof. Peter Bernard Ladkin, Bielefeld, Germany
Je suis Charlie
Tel+msg +49 (0)521 880 7319  www.rvs-bi.de

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