Grenfell Tower


YOUTUBE Fkivqq-NU_I Grenfell Tower Fire, London, 14 June 2017

In June 2017 a fire in Grenfell Tower in London killed 72 people and injured many more. The fire broke out on the 4th floor caused by a faulty fridge-freezer.

The policy in tower block fires is to compartmentalize the fire: That is to say, confine it to one apartment. A “stay put” policy ensures that residents are not blocking the stairs and other access routes, so ensuring the fire brigade can control the fire.

This didn’t work, and an ongoing inquiry is seeking to identify what caused the fire to spread and who is culpable for the losses.

For me there is a more profound question. Why did some people die and others survive?

Data shows that the majority of the deaths occurred higher up the building. Only two people died on floors one to thirteen. Data also shows that the majority who escaped did so whilst the stay put moratorium was still in force.

A systems analysis revealed one key variable driving human behavior: the expected time for the danger to reach me. Those higher up the tower believed the experts and waited to be saved. They paid the ultimate price.

One resident, a woman on floor 11, decided to take a look for herself. She saw the rate of advance of the fire and knew she had to get out. She put the plugs in her sinks and bath and turned on all the taps. She shut up her flat and encouraged others on her floor to do the same. She saved her own and many other lives. She is a systems thinker. We need more of them. A lot more.

I think we are all sitting on the top floor of Grenfell Tower, staying put, when we could be making life saving choices. The only difference between Grenfell Tower and Earth is scale and time-frame.