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Grenfell First Call: Facetious ConOff ?


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I am not into criticising the LFB's heroic efforts at Grenfell, I will leave that to the gutter press and gobby tweeters!!

But have a listen to this tape of the first 999 call. Is it just me, or does the ConOff sound a bit impatient with this guy? Being stern with the guy in order to get the info from him quickly is one thing, and she does brilliantly to extract the information from someone who English is clearly not his first language and then goes and spells it by being a bit facetious "Yes I know its burning......'. Listen to her intonation, she is mightily fed up with him to the point of rude to me.

Who knows why? Who knows what preceded that during her shift? It did surprise me though, as I haven't heard that attitude before

However, it does paint a picture of the hugely traumatic role she and her colleagues faces later when hundreds of people would call in a panic - and perhaps have no English language skills. Its from that point of view (and what I have witnessed in the past) that I salute all ConOffs for the invisible work they do 24/7/365.


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Messy, with all due respect, I kind of see your point but working in a control environment they have the same stress level as frontline ops if not more as they are helpless in control except the advice they can give, upon receiving a high rise call there are a number of factors going through a control officers head. Similar to turning up to the job as an incident commander and members of the public surrounding you, politeness isn’t your concern at that point, whilst on the phone probably seeing multiple calls flooding into CMC, once you’ve learnt that the callers outside and safe you will want to move onto the next call as soon as possible so you are able to give vital fire survival guidance should the next caller need it.

As you say the control officer does well to extract the address out of the occupant, I say this because if you do some research into current LFB Control they have a failing mobilising system which is causing catastrophic issues with incidents and delays in mobilising with nothing being done about it provided by the lovely Capita. 

The conoff will then have to examine the PDA ensuring the correct attendance is sent etc to make sure there is no delay in mobilising pumps and also request attendance of multiple other agencies. This is just the beginning of the list of background work they have to put in to jobs like this. And as you say, who knows what the watch have been through that night before this call. As an ex LFB ConOff I am all too familiar with the stress levels these men and women deal with, and I myself have been in control on nights where there are no pumps left to send to domestic house fires being on the phone to them whilst the persons house burns to the ground; knowing the watch on that night very well and now frontline ops it has allowed me to see the side that we wouldn’t usually see as Operational staff, I take my hat off to the work they did that night and do not envy them one bit.

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I can only echo what Rj has said above me Messy: having spoken to several friends amongst our long suffering ConOffs about the continued issues with the mobilising system, staff shortfalls and reductions in numbers, increased pressures via call challenging, I'm not surprised that the conoff sounds maybe a bit firm with the caller. Indeed there has been a change in tone displayed on occasion between control and crews via main scheme radio, with ocassional tetchy or snappy deliveries. But and this is a big but, I've been told first hand of the hugely increased levels of stress within said control, of the several who have left frustrated by the ongoing issues with a system that they are powerless to remedy, but have to 'make work' , of the reduced numbers on duty each day.  I'll leave with two paragraphs which I would hope the unthinking detractors of this unfortunate conoffs recording will read, and consider whether their comments were appropriate, taken from LFB's opening statement published today:

Officers in the LFB's control room who handled calls from residents faced similar challenges.

Remote from the fire ground they have no means of carrying out an objective assessment of the conditions immediately outside the callers' flats or beyond.

These challenges were significantly exacerbated by the fact that the LFB control room received more calls requiring fire survival guidance from Grenfell Tower on the night of the fire than in theprevious ten years from the whole of London.

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As an ex ConOff, I see no problem with it at all. She has quickly ascertained the problem and where it is, on an initial call, we don’t want much more than the additional assurance that the person is safe. With LFB’s now variable staffing levels, night time duties can easily become challenging and staying on the phone to somebody who, due to panic, expects an appliance outside in 45 seconds is rarely an option. That, in my opinon as an ex London ConOff who is now operational, is more of an organisational issue, rather that the operator.

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Knowing that Con officer, I can't fault her experience or professionalism over approximately 15 plus years of receiving her radio messages, phone cals made and answered.

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I couldn’t stand in her shoes, so I won’t criticise.

Our watch did a visit to Merton a few months back, and I came away with even more respect and admiration for our control squad; as many others have said, the staffing levels plus the stress of just doing the job more than exonerate any complaints for them being curt.

Some of the comments from all the Billy Helmet’s on social media have been infuriating; the brigade should share a FSG call and see how many come back again to slate them afterwards.

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I would say that commenting on this subject whilst the public inquiry is ongoing, on here or on any pubic forum/social media, especially for those of us employed by the LFB, would not be a wise move.

You've been warned!

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Understand what you are saying Firestorm, particularly if LFB staff have been given instructions. Given the widespread implications of this terrible incident though and that it will be years before the inquiry issues recommendations, as long as the information is in the public domain, has been released by the inquiry and its done respectfully I think it is important to discuss.

For example, I think everyone is aware that the cladding system played a major part in the spread of the fire, but until I read this article about the speed of the fire spread I wasn't aware that it shot to the top of the tower directly above the flat of origin in 12 minutes. Definitely makes you think if you're arriving as the initial attendance at any of the other high rises around the country that have cladding.

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