FBU statement on conclusion of evidence to GTI: Friday 29 June

Reacting to today's (29 June) developments at the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, a Fire Brigades Union spokesperson said: 
“Both Daniel Brown and David Badillo presented themselves in the best possible manner to the Inquiry demonstrating dedication and professionalism in the face of an unprecedented fire. They showed great courage in what was the most horrific fire imaginable.
“Communication failures have been a recurring theme in major fire incidents for some time. The FBU has called on all fire and rescue services to implement measures to reduce the risk associated with the loss of communications at operational incidents however it is still a huge problem." 
The excerpt below is from a 2013 FBU report detailing issues with communications at incidents. It can be read online in full at: https://www.fbu.org.uk/publication/oldham-street-incident-july-2013-death-stephen-hunt 
(2) It is suggested that all FRSs should consider the implementation of measures to reduce the risks associated with the loss of communications at operational incidents. For example, to include safety control measures to ensure BA teams can be withdrawn from the risk area if needed. 
Communications failures have been a recurring theme at firefighter fatalities over the last decade. The coroner’s report into the two firefighters killed at Bethnal Green, London in 2004 found that Billy Faust and Adam Meere’s deaths raised issues of communication. The coroner explained that “the court was surprised to hear evidence that, at the time of this incident, it was standard practice for there to be only one set of breathing apparatus communication equipment per crew of two firefighters”. The Rule 43 letter stated: “9. Review and revise allocation of breathing apparatus, radio interface equipment (BARIE) and radios on pumping appliances so that every BA crew has radio communication.”18 
The coroner in the 7 July 2005 bombings raised the issue of communications, particularly in relation to rendezvous points, although she stated that the introduction of Airwave “will greatly assist the emergency services in liaising with each other when attending a major incident”.19 
In the Rule 43 letter on the Lakanal House fire sent to the London Fire Brigade, the coroner recommended that the brigade consider “whether it would be beneficial to use additional breathing apparatus radio communications channels and personal radio channels at major incidents to reduce the amount of traffic on each channel.”20 
The Scottish FRS lessons learned report noted that “the Balmoral Bar incident experienced delays in the allocation of separate incident command and BA radio channels. This, along
with radio blocking, restricted communications and information flows. The allocation of radio channels to specific roles, the development of a communications timeline and radio discipline all play their part in maintaining suitable and sufficient command and control of an incident”. Its recommendation 11 stated: “The SFRS to ensure that the communications infrastructure on the incident ground is fit for purpose.”21 

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