By BILLY SIM 02 Nov, 2017

We have heard recently that Corporate Social Responsibility is a big thing nowadays with large corporations priding themselves in demonstrating that they are committed to this.

The cynical ex Fire Officer in me, who was brought up on buzz word bingo for 30 years had initially been sceptical of this term.

I saw Corporate Social Responsibility as another good set of words to throw around at management team meetings and include in annual reports, and I have no doubt some companies are doing this at present.

We at STAARS Scotland have considered this concept and would like to give our perspective on it as to how companies can achieve Corporate Social Responsibility and ensure it benefits the company, just as much as it benefits society.

What is Corporate Social Responsibility?

One definition that makes sense to me is from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development where it defines Corporate Social Responsibility as:

" The continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as the local community and society at large. "

The ethical aspect, contribution to economic development and improving the quality of life of the workforce, their families, local communities and society at large are all issues that STAARS Scotland's unique 3 step decision making model can directly influence.

We at STAARS Scotland use case studies to reinforce the learning of this 3-step decision making process and although the Grenfell Tower tragedy is still the subject of an enquiry, there are known facts that clearly highlight the lack of Corporate Social Responsibility.

STAARS Scotland believes that using our process will help companies achieve Corporate Social Responsibility and I would like to discuss some facts relating to Grenfell Tower and where our process would be beneficial.

Businesses should behave ethically

It is a matter of fact the cladding that was supplied to the company that carried out the refurbishment of the tower did not meet the requirements, and this was known prior to its fitting. We can argue as to who was ultimately responsible for this, but I think we can agree that a company or companies acted unethically with regards to this.

At STAARS Scotland, we not only focus on the outcome of the decision, we also consider the potential consequences of other factors affecting the decision. Our process would have shown that it was entirely foreseeable that fitting cladding that did not meet the requirements could lead to a tragedy and this decision should have been avoided.


Businesses should contribute towards economic development

Due to the decisions made at Grenfell, it is difficult to see how they contributed towards economic development and any initial benefit of fitting the cheaper materials has been removed by the huge financial and human loss as a result. This would have been highlighted in our 3-step process.


Businesses should improve the quality of life of the workforce, their families, local communities and society at large.

The total opposite happened at Grenfell and businesses and organisations directly involved in these key decisions will have members of their workforce facing possible charges that could result in them being jailed. And let's not even start on this point in relation to the families and friends who have lost loved ones in this tragedy.


What can STAARS Scotland offer that will help you to demonstrate Corporate Social rRsponsibility?


We believe that good decisions equate to good outcomes and our decision-making process can be used by the workforce in any situation.

This could relate to a work issue or a situation that could improve the quality of life of the workforce or their families.

We train individuals how to focus on the expected outcomes when making a decision and our process allows us to make sure people are aware of the values of the company and the company's commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility when they make the decision.


And to reiterate that good decisions equate to good outcomes, with the proper training and support this should mean good outcomes for the company, the workforce, the community and society.


STAARS Scotland is keen to work with organisations to help train people to make better decisions. We see this initial training as just the start of the process and wish to build close relationships to make sure our partnership yields the greatest benefit to all concerned.


If you require further information, please visit .


By BILLY SIM 16 Oct, 2017

The difference between a product of circumstances and a product of your decisions.

The Invictus games was a truly humbling experience for me as I could not help but to feel moved by the courage, commitment and determination of the competitors.

These individuals have suffered life changing physical and mental injuries whilst serving their respective countries in conflicts.

 Prince Harry summed it up perfectly when he said:

"Time and time again, competitors from around the world tell me that sport has saved them; that the Invictus Games have given them a new lease on life; and that to represent their country again with fellow comrades is something they could only have dreamt of while lying in hospital".

While these games may have given these competitors a new lease of life- we need to realise that what these people have achieved under the circumstances should be an example to us all.

Stephen Covey once said, "I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions ."

If you look at some of the injured Service men and women and the physical and mental trauma they have went through, you could almost accept that these individuals may feel a victim of circumstances.

But what they have demonstrated is that whatever circumstances you find yourself in, you can make conscious, intentional decisions that will directly affect your future.

These people have not only survived life threatening and life changing injuries, they have decided to use these circumstances as a catalyst to achieve great things that they previously never thought was possible.

So, while Prince Harry says that sport has saved them, these individuals have provided us with much more than the Invictus Games have given them.

How can someone who has been brought up in a poor area in unfortunate circumstances just accept what life gives them when these competitors have gone through 100 times worse and have achieved so much more?

And to underline the point, some of these competitors would have also come from the same poor area and experienced unfortunate circumstances as well.

The difference is that the Invictus Games competitors did not accept that they were a product of their circumstances- they achieved great things and became a product of their decisions.

When people say that certain individuals from poor social areas are just a victim of their circumstances, they are wrong- these people are a victim of the decisions they make under these circumstances.

Once people start realising this, they can start to focus on the decisions they make and strive to make better decisions to achieve better outcomes.

At STAARS Scotland, we aim to teach people how to make better decisions. Our 3-step process is simple to learn and even easier to implement.

We use case studies to reinforce the learning of the 3-step process and I am just finalising a case study of how the decisions made by the Invictus Games competitors fits into the process. The main message will be that whatever circumstances you find yourself in, if you make the right decisions, you can achieve great outcomes.

Whilst some competitors have stated that the Invictus Games has saved them and given them a new lease of life, we, as a society need to learn from the attitude, commitment and more importantly, the decisions made by these individuals.

To achieve what the competitors have done is amazing, but to inspire other people to believe that you can achieve great things under horrendous circumstances, if they make the right decisions is even better.

This is where the true value of the Invictus Games should eventually be and I am certain that this would give the competitors, their families and their friends an even greater sense of achievement.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post and I would be grateful if you would visit to find out more about what our aspirations are.

 I would warmly welcome any comments or shares of this post.

By BILLY SIM 19 Sep, 2017

Major airline company Ryanair made 1.31 billion Euros profit in 2016-2017. This was up 6% from the previous year. Customers were up by 13% and revenue was up by 2%.

Ryanair clearly is a company that benefits from the good decisions made by its management and staff as these profits are not down to luck. They are the result of sound management decisions that have created this multibillion Euro company that regularly makes over 1bn Euros profit each year.

And their CEO, Michael O'Leary rightly takes part of the credit for these huge profits as he ultimately surrounded himself with the right people who could make the right decisions and help create these impressive figures.

But recently something went wrong.

It cancelled 82 flights on Sunday after admitting it had "messed up" the planning of pilots' holidays.

They also had to announce that they would have to cancel 40-50 flights per day for the next 6 weeks. This is estimated to cost the company around £20m in compensation.

If it was mainly down to the good decisions of its staff that created the 1.31bn Euro profit, is it fair to say that the estimated £20m compensation payments was down to the bad decisions of its staff?

Admitting they "messed up" the planning of pilots' holidays is yet another phrase you frequently hear when people have made a bad decision. Errors of judgement, mistakes and accidents are all other way to say that someone made a bad decision.

In large companies, the knee jerk reaction to losses like this is to find the culprit and sack them.

Good decision makers equate to profits and bad decisions makers equate to losses so if the company sack the ones who have made the bad decisions, this should ultimately lead to people making better decisions?

STAARS Scotland suggests an alternative approach.

Instead of sacking the people who made the bad decision, train them to make better decisions in the future.

Here is where we see the main advantages of this approach.

1.     Staff retention.

It is easier and cheaper to develop staff to make better decisions than to replace them if they make a bad decision.


2.       Company values .

If your staff truly are your most important asset, your words are hollow and mean nothing unless you can follow this up with action to make them feel these words are true.

By demonstrating that you will support and even develop them when things go wrong will go a long way to reinforcing this point. Staff will work harder, feel valued and repay the loyalty you have shown in them.


3.     Collective responsibility

Company owners regularly tell staff that the success of the company is down to everyone but why do they sometimes want to pin any failures onto certain groups or individuals?

When I was a Station Officer in the fire service and my trainee was going up for assessment, I made sure they were the best prepared that they could possibly be. I would have felt that if they had failed, I had also failed for not training them properly. Collective responsibility means that the team is equally responsible for both the good and the bad decisions.

This suggested approach may be alien to some companies but we at STAARS Scotland believe that by training people to make better decisions, you automatically reduce the likelihood of staff making bad decisions.

This approach is best to be proactive rather than reactive and if you would like more information on our services, please visit .

By BILLY SIM 06 Sep, 2017

Throughout my life and especially my career in the Fire Service, I have always tried to keep things as simple and as easy to understand as possible.

I remember as a Trainee firefighter at East Kilbride and we had a plant sale to raise money for charities as well as an open day to invite the public in.

 A woman said to one of my colleagues who was just about to retire, I think you do a great job and putting out fires must be really difficult at times.

He just smiled and said, it's simple really, we just put the wet stuff on the hot stuff and if we do it right, the fire goes out

People have written countless books on firefighters and firefighting and what makes a good firefighter.

 Based on the description above, the simplest way of describing it is a good firefighter knows when and how to put the wet stuff on the hot stuff!

Another example of keeping it simple is during the Russian and US space race, the Americans invested millions of dollars in a pen that could write in zero gravity.

The Russians solved the same problem by using a pencil!

People sometimes try and overcomplicate things when they really need to keep it as simple as possible.

I have seen flow charts in the fire Service that were so complicated and difficult to follow that they just led to more confusion.

I remember a decision-making flow chart that actually contained over 80 pieces of information on one slide!

The funniest thing ever was the look on the faces of Junior Officers as the instructor tried to explain how it worked!

The point I am trying to make is that decision making should be kept as simple as possible to ensure it is easy to understand.

 I have broken down the main factors that has led to STAARS Scotland help people to make better decisions.

1.   What is the problem?

The problem is that bad decisions cause injuries and sometimes deaths, leading to criminal charges on occasion and huge financial implications as a result.

Bad management decisions can cost millions of pounds to Companies who can ill afford this loss.

2.     Where is the evidence?

Hillsborough, Piper Alpha, The Costa Concordia disaster and numerous others were all caused by bad decisions.

The report by the Financial Services Authority into the collapse of the Royal Bank of Scotland which partly caused the banking crisis Stated: the " underlying deficiencies in RBS management, governance and culture which made it prone to make poor decisions ".


3.     What is the solution?

If the problem is caused by bad decisions, the simple solution is to help people make better decisions and this in turn will help reduce accidents and financial losses.

I have already spent far too much time talking about bad decisions and although we need to learn from them, STAARS approach is to concentrate on the benefits of training people to consistently make good decisions

STAARS Scotland achieves this by keeping things as simple as possible and delivering it in a manner that is easy to understand and even easier to implement.

We use numerous examples of good decisions and break them down into the key areas. We then apply our decision-making process to them to allow people to understand the strengths in the decisions.

This approach also gives people who generally consistently make good decisions, a template to follow which they can easily use as an aide memoir.

STAARS Scotland is confident that this approach will help  improve decision making and the organisations and individuals will benefit from this.

4.   What can you decide to do?

Staying on the keeping it simple theme, you now have a number of decisions you can make.

You can decide that you would like to find out more and you can contact us at  or visit the website at .

You can decide to share this or forward it to someone you know who may benefit from this.

You may decide that you would like STAARS to visit your company to deliver a free no obligation, 30-minute coaching session on how to make better decisions. This session explains  what our philosophy is and how the 3-step process works.

This will allow you or your management team to question us on our approach and decide if we can be of assistance.

Theodore Roosevelt once said: In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.

Please feel free to comment on this post and I look forward to your responses.



By BILLY SIM 03 Sep, 2017

Ever wondered why certain people seem to achieve everything they want in life?

Some people seem to have the knack of always doing the right thing at the right time.

The promotion, the new house and new car seem to just happen for these people

You know who these people are because you could name at least half a dozen people you know who fit into this category.

These people always seem to get it right almost all the time.

And then there are the well-known people who have the same gift.

 Richard Branson, Bill gates, and Mark Zuckerberg to name but a few, seem to have the uncanny gift of deciding when to start something at the right time and knowing how to keep it going for maximum effect.

This isn't luck or a fluke that makes people capable of doing this- it is directly related to the one key skill that I believe makes them stand out from the rest.

These people consistently make good decisions.

They will be the first to admit that they have also made bad decisions, but these pale into insignificance when you compare them against the wealth they have accumulated because of their good decisions.

More importantly. They have the experience to surround themselves with other people who also consistently make good decisions.

People who consistently make good decisions add huge value to a company and companies will reward these people well.

These are the people who get the promotion, the new house and the new car and can holiday where ever they want.

And I believe they deserve it because their good decisions are the main reasons that their companies are as successful as they are.

People who consistently make good decisions are worth their weight in gold and some people look at these individuals with a sense of envy.

They look inwardly to their own lives and circumstances and believe they could never be as successful, or couldn't get the car or the promotion or the house.

 I totally disagree.

Firstly, Stephen Covey once said I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions

You have the ability and the choice to decide how you react to your own personal circumstances. You can accept them or you can decide to act to improve them. Improving your decision-making skills will help you to achieve your goals in life.

Secondly, decision making is a skill and it can be developed and improved the same as any other skill.

A famous golfer once heard a member of the crowd say that his golf shot was lucky. He replied, "The more I practice, the luckier I get"

Decision making is no different in that the more you concentrate on the key components of decision making and replicate them, the better you will become at consistently making good decisions.

And yes, some people do seem to be naturally gifted at decision making but with the right training, commitment and guidance anyone can achieve the goal of consistently making better decisions.

STAARS Scotland has devised a 3-step process that can be used when making any decision.

It is simple, easy to follow and can be put into practice almost immediately.

The one-day course not only gives you the skills you need to put this into practice, it also breaks down historic decisions into the 3 key steps to allow candidates to fully understand the concept.

 I would like you to consider the following questions.

Do you think your company would benefit from its key staff being trained to consistently make better decisions?


Do you think you would achieve more if you could consistently make better decisions?


Do you want to find out more about our unique decision-making training?


Would you like a free 30-minute coaching session on how to make better decisions?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions, please visit our website at or email





By BILLY SIM 18 Aug, 2017

Below are some facts and figures that I would like you to consider.

Accidents in the Maritime Industry.

Studies have shown that human error contributes to 89-96% of collisions - Source U.S. Coast Guard Research & Development Center.

Aviation accidents

Pilot error is the leading cause of commercial airline accidents, with close to 80% percent of accidents caused by pilot error, according to Boeing.

Workplace accidents

Analysis of accidents and incidents shows that human failure contributes to almost all accidents and exposures to substances hazardous to health. Source HSE.

Vehicle accidents

New data shows that 94% of US car accidents are caused by human error.

Source -the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

If we look at these sectors collectively, we will probably find that the initial and ongoing training and Health and Safety legislation has never been greater.

Since their first induction to their continual assessments, employees have had to go through more and more training and development to make them as safe as possible when they are at work.

This is not only to protect the employees, but also to protect the employer if an accident happens.

HSE statistics show that workplace accidents have broadly stayed the same over the last 5 years, even though the level of training and ongoing assessment of competence has increased.

It looks like employees are receiving more and more training but are still having the same amount of injuries!

New approach 

My new approach is to replace the phrase "human error" with the more accurate description of "bad decisions".

Human error equates to someone deciding on the wrong course of action and I can almost guarantee that most of these people have not been trained on how to consistently make better decisions.

My approach is simple- most accidents are caused by bad decisions so we train people to make better decisions and this will help to reduce accidents.

The whole concept gets people to look at injuries as the result of a bad decision and this may at first be uncomfortable for individuals who may be reluctant to accept this. Unfortunate accidents are easier to accept than people actually being responsible for what happened due to the bad decisions that they made.

My philosophy is that if you want people to improve in a certain area, you should train them. Decision making is no different from any other skill in this respect.

The other factor in this training is that it compliments existing health and Safety training that the employees will have received. I sometimes feel that the mere mention of Health and Safety training can cause some people to become disinterested.

A decision-making course that is designed to reduce accidents and equips people with the skills to immediately apply the learning to historical decisions as well as any future decisions sounds much more interesting.

The final point is that the 3-step decision making process is not just designed to prevent accidents- it can also be used to make better decisions in other areas as well.

Imagine the value of having a workforce that can apply this process to help reduce accidents and injuries. This alone would make the training worthwhile, but the fact that it gives employees a template that they can use in all decisions, makes it even more beneficial.

I hope this article has got people thinking about accidents, injuries and possible reduction measures and if you decide that you would like more information on this unique approach, please visit or email .

Any comments or opinions on this approach would be greatly appreciated.

By BILLY SIM 23 Jul, 2017
Some people will read this and think why on earth do we need to train people how to make decisions- surely everyone knows how to decide?
Well after spending 30 years in the Fire Service and teaching Critical Decision Making at National Level, I can assure you that people really benefit from being trained on decision making!

I have witnessed the outcome of some bad decisions, both in an emergency and non-emergency situation and know that decision making is a skill that can easily be developed to a high standard.

This innovative and unique step by step process has been designed using my thirty years of fire service experience and incorporates real historical situations to reinforce the learning.

Someone once asked, What if a company decides to train and develop their key staff to make better decisions and they decide to leave”?
The obvious response to this is, “What if a company decides not to train and develop their key staff to make better decisions and they decide to stay”?

Listed below are the key benefits that I believe people and companies will get from this course.

1. Add Value to your Staff and your Business
Business can be challenging and any way that you can create a competitive edge over other similar businesses should be considered. Forward thinking proactive companies should always ensure their staff are fully trained in all the skills they need to carry out their job to the highest standard. This is self-funding as the greater the skillset of the workforce should lead to a more productive and efficient business. Companies should consider the benefits of knowing their key staff are trained how to consistently make good decisions and how to use the training to allow them to analyse historical decisions to ensure the best decision possible is made.

2. Help Create a More Harmonious Workforce
Anyone who has worked in a team will know the carnage that is caused by a team member who consistently makes bad decisions.

Even worse is a manager or team leader who consistently makes bad decisions as this quickly affects the morale of the team and can lead to disharmony. I have worked with some of these managers and I have first-hand experience of the consequences!

I have also had the pleasure of working with managers who were excellent decision makers. These individuals created an environment where you were happy to work in and they gave you confidence in their decision-making ability.

I can safely say that I produced my best work and had greater job satisfaction working with people who were good at making decisions and the experience I have gained from this is reflected in the course.

3. Provide Leadership
The definition of leadership from my fire service days is “The willingness to lead and the ability to inspire, this is a personal quality which inspires others to follow”. Companies who provide good leadership by supporting and developing their staff should be rewarded as they will have created a motivated and productive workforce. Forward facing companies lead by example by constantly finding new and innovative ways to engage, motivate and inspire their staff to achieve their goals. This decision-making course is ideally suited to this type of company and fits in well with any CPD programmes already in place.

4. Accountability
People need to be accountable for the decisions they make and just as importantly, they must be aware that their decisions will be scrutinised even more should they result in a financial loss, injury or fatality. STAARS Scotland provides a 3-step process that can be applied to any decision you make. This process acts as a checklist and the course uses it extensively to audit historical decisions. This gives candidates a better understanding of how it works and how they can effectively apply it to the decisions they make.

5. Maximise your Company’s Greatest Asset
I am a great believer that a company’s most important asset are its staff. I also strongly believe that these words mean nothing if the staff don’t feel it and management must follow through on these words by ensuring staff feel valued, supported and developed in all the skillsets they require to do their job.

Decision making is a key part of any job and companies need to realise the benefit of a workforce who have been trained to consistently make better decisions.

One of the other factors in relation to this course is the skills and experience I have gained from thirty years in the fire service. This course has been designed as I am confident it will add value to people and the companies they work for.
I know I can help people consistently make better decisions.
Imagine the value of just one needless injury or fatality being avoided because someone has had this course and as a result, makes a good decision instead of a bad one.

We have recently seen major international companies lose hundreds of millions of pounds due to bad decisions.
The Grenfell Tower tragedy in London is a perfect case in point where people will be held accountable for the decisions they have made.
They will be scrutinised by the public and the courts, and some people may even face going to jail because of their decisions involving this tragedy.
While you cannot start to put a cost on the lives that were lost, the financial cost of Grenfell Tower will probably run into billions of pounds.
Although attending this course will not mean that you will always make perfect decisions in every situation, it will allow you to consistently make better decisions on a regular basis.
For more information on how this decision-making training can be tailored to your specific needs, please visit and use the contact form.
By BILLY SIM 26 Jun, 2017
The fallout of the Grenfell Tower tragedy appears to show a systemic failure where it looks like cost cutting and savings comes before the risk to human lives.

The company decided to sell this cladding to the contractor, knowing full well that it did not meet the requirements for this type of building.
People must have known that it didn’t meet regulations, but decided to go ahead and fit it anyway.

The saddest thing about our society is that the supplier knew if they decided not to supply it and take a moral stance that it was not suitable, someone else would supply it instead.

Now we have the cladding on over 80 tower blocks throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland failing the fire tests and there are still lots more to be tested.

Who decided that these panels were originally safe to use?
Was the decision based on price at the expense of safety?
Deciding to use cladding that fails the fire tests will result in all these towers requiring new cladding, at a huge cost to the taxpayer.

The United Kingdom once led the way in relation to Health and Safety, Fire Safety and building regulations- now we hear these panels are banned for use in towers across Europe and the USA.

So, everyone else decided to ban them except England, Northern Ireland and Wales?

Scotland seems to have learned from its past experiences and banned this type of panel being used after a fire in a tower block in Irvine which happened around 1999 if my memory is correct.

Camden council in London have evacuated 1000’s of residents from similar towers to Grenfell because the fire service cannot guarantee their safety.

Today, they are fitting hundreds of new fire doors to the towers. The problem I have is that these doors would have been faulty or missing for some time- it is only now that they have decided to act.

Whilst I genuinely feel for councils and their necessity to save money in these times of austerity, they will now be under a huge spotlight to justify the decisions they made.

Good, honest, hardworking people who are doing the best job they can under near impossible circumstances, will now have to justify their actions- with the main disadvantage that everyone else knows the outcome.

The second point I would like to make is that It also highlights that the basic people skills and emotional intelligence seem to be lacking in the very people who need to show it the most.

Then again, if you cut funding to councils, the first areas to suffer are usually staff training and development.

The definitions of some of these people skills that I teach are similar to the ones I have been taught as a fire officer and I feel we need to look at them with regards to the current situation.

Leadership - The willingness to lead and the ability to inspire- this is a personal quality which inspires others to follow.

Management - making best use of all the resources available to achieve the managers aims.

Communications - getting the right information to the right people at the right time using the most appropriate communications method.

The people who have suffered the most from this are the residents, families and friends of the people in Grenfell Tower.
From the outset, these people should have been the priority and more importantly, they should have been made to feel as if they were the priority.

These victims never felt that and once this feeling took hold, there was no coming back from it.

It appears that in the immediate aftermath of this tragedy, the powers that be never demonstrated the basic people skills required. This would have gone a long way to giving the victims the support and assistance they needed.

The Leadership, Management and Communication channels never appeared to be in place. These should be the building blocks to dealing with this tragedy but the perception of myself and others was that they weren’t implemented immediately. Even the Government admitted this today.

Anyone who knows about managing a crisis like this knows that these key areas need to be implemented immediately- you cannot try and implement them retrospectively as by this time, the situation has deteriorated beyond repair.

This is not a Political statement but Theresa May demonstrated how important people skills are by showing her lack of them in the last few weeks.

I think whatever party you vote for, you will agree with this comment.

The skills defined above should have been demonstrated immediately by the local authority, but these 3 basic people skills seemed in short supply during this tragedy.

Successive governments have created this society where money is so tight that people will decide to cut corners and adhere to the “spirit” of the regulations to save money.
Then when it goes wrong, everyone with their degrees in hindsight will judge them based on the outcome.

The ongoing investigation into the Grenfell Tower tragedy should highlight to everyone the importance of these people skills.

It should also underline the necessity to ensure that when decisions are made, they can be justified and withstand legal and moral scrutiny.
By BILLY SIM 24 Jun, 2017

I have been a firefighter for thirty years and recent events have just reinforced my belief that people make really bad decisions without considering the consequences.

Look at Grenfell Tower in London for example. Fire Regulations for residential towers should be straightforward:
1 hour fire protection of main house door into escape corridors
1 hour fire protection between each flat.
½ hour fire protection of internal doors within each house
1 hour fire protection on all ceilings to prevent fire spread upwards
1 hour fire protection on all floors to prevent spread downwards.

This should contain the fire to the house of origin and give fire crews enough time to extinguish it.
Regulations state that this should be the standard for INSIDE the building.

Now I am going to talk about every firefighters’ nightmare and that is a fire in a sandwich panel building.

For those who are unfamiliar with them, sandwich panels are basically insulation sandwiched between steel or similar non-combustible sheets of metal. These panels have excellent insulation properties and can be designed to make an old concrete building look modern.

The outer coating is usually glued on and the inner insulation can vary from mineral based material which has relatively good fire resistance to polyurethane material which is flammable, gives of exceedingly high temperatures and toxic gases.

Now some of these panels will not spread flame across their surface but in relation to the flammable types, if the inner flammable core is exposed to flame, they will burn rapidly.

The other issue with them is that if the inside core is ignited, the outer layer can delaminate and fall off, leaving the inner core exposed to more flame and oxygen.

I have attended numerous fires in sandwich panel buildings, and on one occasion, two firefighters nearly lost their lives due to the rapid fire spread and the extreme heat.

These firefighters were lucky as there have been a number of firefighter fatalities in this type of building.

The operational guidance from the fire service I worked in at one point was- do not enter a sandwich panel building if it is on fire, carry out external firefighting only.

Now although Grenfell Tower was a building of concrete construction, it was covered on all sides by sandwich panels, which clearly were flammable.

So how on earth can we decide that there are certain fire safety measures that must be adhered to INSIDE the building, and then decide to cover the OUTSIDE of the building in flammable sandwich panels.

As stated previously, people made a conscious intentional decision to use these panels.
If the cause of these panels becoming flammable was due to them being altered during the fitting process, this was also done by people making a conscious intentional decision.

In the London borough of Camden, the local authority has evacuated 4,000 people from towers with similar cladding to that of Grenfell Tower. There also appears to be other fire safety issues within these towers.

27 high rise blocks of flats in the UK have now failed the fire cladding safety tests with many more still to be tested.

Now let us look at the cost of these decisions.

The highest cost is the cost of human lives lost in Grenfell Tower and to families and friends who lost loved ones in this tragedy.
The financial cost of these decisions will run into hundreds of millions or possibly billions of pounds and will take years to complete.
There is also the personal cost to these decisions as there is a need for answers to why this tragedy happened.

People will have the decisions they made scrutinised legally and morally, and will be judged by the public and maybe even in a court of law.

One of the reasons I decided to try and help people make better decisions is that I have witnessed too much needless deaths, injuries and misery in my thirty years as a firefighter, and if I can stop one person making that potential bad decision, then it is worth all the effort.

Grenfell Tower is another prime example of bad decisions resulting in the worst possible outcome imaginable.

Please do not take this as a sales pitch as that is not my intention, but I would like to ask all who read this to do me a favour.

The next time you decide on something, think for a moment on the possible outcome and the potential consequences of your actions. What is the worst thing that could happen and what are the chances of that happening? And if the worst did happen, could you justify your actions?

By BILLY SIM 23 Jun, 2017
This  was originally posted on my LinkedIn account on 15 June 2017

Following on from my post prior to the tragic events at Grenfell Tower in London, I would like to make the following points.

We do not have a cause yet of the tragedy, and whilst people have their own opinions, I would think that it would be more professional if people would wait until the outcome of the investigation before they shared their views, or at the very least, report on facts and not conjecture.

For fire crews to reach the 20th floor at the height of the blaze epitomizes the professionalism, dedication and determination of firefighters. I would ask any Government to remember this when you are deciding whether you should further reduce their numbers and make their already difficult and demanding job, even more difficult.

This is the same for the other emergency services who do a great job under extremely difficult circumstances.
What I will now talk about are the facts as I see them and these facts may become extremely uncomfortable for some people.

1. It was an intentional decision to use the cladding on that building. It didn’t accidentally appear or wasn’t drawn from a Tombola, people decided to use that specific cladding.
Now the cladding may turn out to comply with all relevant legislation and I will wait on the outcome of the investigation to see if this is the case. If it does comply with all legislation then the people who decided it complied may have to justify their decisions.

2. The owners of the building intentionally decided on the fire safety measures in place within the building. I am not saying for one minute that the fire safety measures were not up to standard, but if there were issues and the owners decided not to deal with them, then they will have to justify their actions.

3. The Government decided not to act on a report about serious fire safety issues caused by cladding in high rise buildings which dates to 2013. They may be asked to justify their decisions.

4. This last point is one that is close to me as I have already served 30 years as a firefighter and retired last year, however the Government has decided that my former colleagues can’t retire on full pension until they are 60 years old.

The problem with this is that a 60-year-old firefighter in a situation like Grenfell Tower will still think they are a 30-year-old.
They will push their bodies to the limit and that limit will be a lot lower than it was when they were 30 years old.
The physical and just as important, the emotional realisation that they couldn’t do the job to the standard that they previously could will be sore for them.

The sickness levels may increase and this will put even more pressure on the London Fire Brigade which has already lost huge amounts of firefighters.
The points above should highlight that all these decisions have consequences and people will have to be answerable for the decisions they have made.

People really need to think carefully about the decisions they make because they never know when they might have to justify them.
And if some of these decisions failed to comply with legislation and resulted in the deaths of these residents, people could face corporate manslaughter charges.

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