Should London look to tech to temporarily make dangerously clad tower blocks safer?

Last week I was in London attending London Tech Week (check out the comprehensive mHealth guide here) and was going to post a few notes on my experience but couldn’t bring myself to publish them as the event for me was overshadowed by how a complete lack of tech adoption in London has led to a 24 story Grenfell tower block being clad in flammable and toxic fume producing cladding/insulation and residents being given instructions to stay in their apartments within a building that had no sprinkler system (the authors presumably had no idea about the dangerous cladding materials?).

GrenfellTower

In reaction similarly clad social housing towers across the UK are being evacuated and  4000 residents in London have already been made to sleep in temporary shelters within council properties like leisure centres until the cladding on their blocks is removed.

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How did anyone think it would be a good idea to have the Council authorities (who paid for and expensively installed these dangerous materials) to be in charge of handling how to react to it now being clad all over their buildings?

Has no one done a risk assessment and realised that the families here are probably at more risk of coming to harm from being relocated to live with one another within buildings that weren’t designed for high density habitation and don’t have the facilities.

I see no point talking about being the Capital for Technology when you don’t try and use tech to temporarily fix these issues, for example:

> Instead of issuing advice to remain in burning buildings update the advice given to residents and have them register their mobile numbers to enable personalised updates to be made as well as contact in emergencies.

> Work with the Fire Services to let citizens Facetime/3G Video Call the emergency services (it well help collect information and enable emergency services to more speedily make more appropriate responses to calls).

> Position fire fighting equipment on the landings so that residents can manage small incidents themselves and provide a training session for residents on it’s use.

> Fit mobile embedded smoke alarms in all council buildings and program them so that Fire Services respond to them knowing their precise location and building details.

FireText

> Fit Kidde Remote Lync devices in the council buildings so that residents also get early notification of nearby smoke/co monitors being activated:

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> Put some military helicopters on standby until you have the cladding taken down with buckets filled with fire fighting fluids:

Screen Shot 2017-06-24 at 19.51.27

I don’t like to be so negative so here’s a bit of balance: the tragic fire led to an outpouring of generosity and community spirit amongst Londoners. Of the many things I saw one was this guy anonymously (I covered up his face as he might not want to be recognised) gifting lunch to the heroes in his local firestation:

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