The combustible panel issue has to be addressed before it is too late

Source: The Daily Telegraph

I was looking through my library of photos in preparing an earlier blog today and my eye was drawn to this photo of two young girls trying to escape from a fire in Sydney back in 2012. My mind immediately thought what would have happened had that, what appears to have been older building, been retro-fitted with the combustible paneling?

In that post titled. Fire Safety in High Rise Buildings a Must, I recommended anyone wishing to invest in a high rise building obtain a report on the fire safety of the building, particularly if you wish to live above the 7th floor which is about as high as the fire brigade can reach with their current equipment (It may be less in some areas).

Since London, I have spoken to a lot of people and one suggestion came from a very talented engineer was to install either sprinklers or drenches, (a drenching setup is a one goes off, they all go off system).  I questioned this as I felt it was only a band-aid solution.

Advice I received from experts in the United Kingdom, where what may appear following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the insurance industry has been a lot more focused on the issue and fighting council and government to stop its installation. Their approach is that the sprinkler or drenching system is not the answer for the following reasons:

  • The volume of water required compared to the existing water supply
  • As it is on the exterior of the building what happens on a day of high winds?
  • The difficulty of getting the water in behind the metal cladding to the combustible insulation material.

As such, the only workable safe solution is for this type of material to be removed. There will be a significant cost but the risk as we have seen in London, Dubai and Melbourne is just too great for this material to be left.

To me, for the Metropolitan Fire Brigade to say they have a number of buildings under ‘special watch’ I think is not the answer. I, like many within the industry do not what to have a Grenfell tragedy in this country before any meaningful action is taken.

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