High-rise Procedures Upgraded in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia 2008

Pro-active Incident Command System
Retired London & New York Fire Officer and high-rise fire-fighting specialist Paul Grimwood was in Kuala Lumpur in November 2008 leading KL City Firefighters during an upgrade of their High-rise Incident Command and Standard Operating Procedures. A month long series of live exercises and familiarization visits in some of KL's tallest buildings paved the way for the introduction of a new system of 'Pro-active' ICS as well as RAT teams (Rapid Ascent Teams) in Malaysia's capital, who's prime objectives are to complete rapid but thorough secondary searches of the most dangerous locations above a fire, ensuring all occupants have evacuated to safety. He went on to say ...

 'The fire service in Kuala Lumpur is known for it's innovative approach to modernization where the objectives are to provide an effective system of fire cover, inline with effective risk assessment. The modern high-rise buildings that scatter the skyline in downtown KL feature many of the latest systems in high-rise protection. However, the system of intervention in KL high-rise fires, as in so many other parts of the world, has been based on out-dated 1980s 'reactive' incident command structures. We introduced them to a new way of thinking about how they can get ahead of the fire as opposed to reacting some minutes later due to the inevitable time lag delays common to high-rise fire-fighting. Where building systems fail, we must respond speedily and appropriately if we are to avoid catastrophic outcomes in our urban environments'. For more information E.mail Paul Grimwood HERE

Download Paul Grimwood's report on reducing fire service intervention times HERE - 2009 research in Kuala Lumpur

High-angle Rescue from 66th floor of Petronas Twin Towers in KLCC

Whilst Paul Grimwood was training the KL Firefighters a real emergency call came in reporting a couple of window washers who had become trapped (for over six hours) high up on the facade of one of the Petronas twin towers. This set the scene for an amazing high-angle rescue as a firefighter rappelled down from the 66th level, before lowering the marooned window washers from their gondola some thirty storeys above ground. This has to be one of the highest ever rapels to rescue trapped workers on the face of a high-rise building (see pictures right).

Paul Grimwood was invited to address the Seoul Korea Conference on High-rise Firefighting in November 2007 - He sent this short message ... 

"When we are faced with a serious fire at ground level, our firefighters often encounter great difficulties and exposure to some element of risk. When they are faced with that same fire, thirty storeys above ground, the physiological demands are much greater and the difficulties and risks are greatly magnified. There may be long time delays between a fire commander's chosen strategy becoming a tactical operation on the fire floors. There may be changing circumstances during this delay that require the strategy to be altered. There will be a great demand for manpower to accomplish even the most basic operation and then, where firefighters are working hard, the need to support them in a continued attack on the fire will treble the resources operating on the fire floors. To be effective you must have a pre-plan that is based on the experience of those who have fought these types of fires and learned many lessons. The pre-plan must be well understood by everybody and to achieve this requires frequent practice in such buildings. The communication process at a high-rise fire will inevitably break down and the pre-plan must ensure that critical tasks, such as searching stair-shafts, elevators and roof, are documented as written assignments into the pre-plan. The objective is to enable firefighting teams to adapt and function in small teams with pre-assigned tasks and on occasions, without fire command supervision. Above all, avoid complacency! This is inevitably the firefighter's worst enemy! Approach every situation with care and professionalism and always try to be at least one step ahead of the fire's next move."

In 1991 Paul Grimwood published a 28-page report in his book Fog Attack and articles in the IFE Journal (UK) that stated quite simply that the vast majority of fire departments were unprepared to face a difficult fire situation on the upper floors of a high-rise residential or office building. The lack of training, pre-planning, documented procedure (SOPs) and inadequate staffing or equipment was subjecting both firefighters and building occupants to unnecessary risk.

Ten years on ....

'Since the fatal 2001 Four Leaf Towers residential tower block fire in Houston, Texas, the fire department has placed a stronger emphasis on training and staffing their fire force. The fire resulted in the deaths of a firefighter and a building occupant' ....

'Since the fatal 2002 Dolphin Cove residential condominium high-rise fire in Clearwater, Florida, the fire department has placed a stronger emphasis on training. The fire resulted in several deaths and injured firefighters'....

'Since the fatal 2003 CCAB high-rise office fire in downtown Chicago, the fire department has placed a stronger emphasis on training. Greater efforts to improve communications; transfer of information; incident command and firefighting tactics are now being seen. The fire resulted in the deaths of six occupants and the fire department are facing multi-million dollar litigation from the families of those who lost their lives' ....

'Since the fatal 2005 Harrow Court residential tower block fire in Stevenage, UK, the fire department has placed a stronger emphasis on training in incident command; transfer of information; and high-rise firefighting tactics. The fire resulted in several deaths including an occupant and two firefighters' ....

High-rise Firefighting Instructor (HRFI) Courses
Renowned expert on high-rise firefighting, UK Fire Officer Paul Grimwood, has researched firefighting experience in high-rise buildings since 1975, working on detachment with ten big city fire departments in the USA during the 1990s and attending fires in five of the world's tallest buildings including the World Trade Center, New York City and the Sears Tower in Chicago. He is adviser to a UK national (Communities & Local Government) committee reviewing high-rise procedures (2007).

He also visited the scenes of past conflagrations at the Interstate Bank in Los Angeles; the Petrona Towers in Kuala Lumpar; the Ponte building in Johannesburg and the Churchill Plaza in the UK where he discussed firefighting operations with firefighters and chiefs who attended these incidents. Using several case histories he explains how incident command systems, a detailed pre-plan (SOP), manpower and equipment logistics are key factors in any successful operation.

Download the HRFI Course Syllabus HERE

Download 'Operational Aspects of High-rise Firefighting'

A 5,000m2 fire located high up within the confines of a downtown office high-rise structure is a lot different to the same fire located on the second floor! The logistical demands placed on firefighters have demonstrated that Incident Command needs to function well in advance of actual needs for as a plan is initiated there is a lengthy time delay prior to actioning! At two fires in 1988 (Interstate Bank) and 1991(Churchill Plaza), US and UK firefighters were faced with office fires on upper levels that demanded a fresh 30 minute SCBA cylinder every 33 seconds for the entire duration of the Interstate fire and similar requirements for a fresh 45 minute cylinder every 80 seconds in the Plaza fire! Similarly in both fires, hundreds of firefighters were required to undertake a wide range of duties, estimated at both incidents as one firefighter for every 25m2 of fire involvement.

It was in FOG ATTACK that he researched and initiated debate on reaction times - the time taken by firefighters to respond to an incident and get water flowing onto the fire on the upper levels of a high-rise. His research demonstrated 'reaction times' ranging from 9 to 40 minutes for fires located between the 10th and 33rd levels!

Contact Paul Grimwood for details on our HRFI Courses