Archive for January 18th, 2010

The Recent Major Emergency Response Fiascos in Ireland

Unless you have been living, for the past two or three months, in conditions similar to a detainee in the illegally occupied part of Cuba, called Guantánamo Bay … and you have been deprived of almost all sensory perception … you cannot have escaped (!) the fact that we have had a Major National Flood Emergency … followed by a Major National Snow Emergency … followed, again, by a National Flood & Water Emergency.  I kid you not !!!   But … the emergencies haven’t yet ended.  And … it’s not just the politicians … at national and local levels … who should bury their heads in shame.

It has been amply demonstrated that the relevant emergency-related institutions in this country are incompetent, disorganized and dysfunctional.  Focus your venomous attentions, as well, on the civil and public servants, administrative and technical staff, and private sector technical consultants who occupy space in these institutions.

Did you know that we actually have a National Directorate for Fire & Emergency Management (NDFEM), which is located deep within the Custom House … in the centre of Dublin City.  According to the NDFEM, a Major Emergency is …

‘ An incident which, usually with little or no warning, causes or threatens death or injury, serious disruption of essential services or damage to property, the environment or infrastructure … beyond the normal capabilities of the principal emergency services (An Garda Síochána, the Ambulance Service and the Fire Service) in the area in which the event occurs.’

Pages dedicated to NDFEM can be found on the Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government (DEHLG) WebSite … www.environ.ie

From the DEHLG HomePage, follow the link to the National Directorate for Fire & Emergency Management.

Please read … without laughing, crying, screaming out loud in utter frustration, or any combination thereof … about the NDFEM’s Mandate and Structure here … www.environ.ie/en/LocalGovernment/NationalDirectorateforFireandEmergencyManagement

Then … and only if you are brave enough … check out the Bozos, Wasters and Lúdramáns who sit on the NDFEM’s Management Board here … www.environ.ie/en/LocalGovernment/NationalDirectorateforFireandEmergencyManagement/ManagementBoard … and the NDFEM’s Consultative Committee here … www.environ.ie/en/LocalGovernment/NationalDirectorateforFireandEmergencyManagement/ConsultativeCommittee

Prize specimens !   At least we can get rid of politicians at the next elections !!

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2010 ACRECONF in Delhi (Dilli), India – 8th & 9th January

It was a great pleasure to be invited to speak on the subject of Sustainable Fire Engineering at the 2010 ACRECONF in Delhi (Dilli), India.  This ground breaking conference in Asia took place at the India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, Delhi … on the 8th & 9th January last.  Back during August (2009) in Bengaluru … the ACRECONF Chairman, Mr. Ashish Rakheja, told me that he expected an attendance of somewhere between 500-600 people at the Delhi Conference.  Over the two days of the actual conference, approximately 1800 delegates participated … an enormous response by architects, civil and service engineers, developers, client and construction organizations, etc., etc., from right across the country … and from the deep south.

Colour photograph showing some of the many participants at the 2010 ACRECONF in Delhi, as they enjoy talking and networking during the morning coffee break of the second day at the conference. The venue was the India Habitat Centre on Lodhi Road. The weather was chilly for the time of year, and there had been a heavy fog earlier in the morning. Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-01-09.

Colour photograph showing some of the many participants at the 2010 ACRECONF in Delhi, as they enjoy talking and networking during the morning coffee break of the second day at the conference. The venue was the India Habitat Centre on Lodhi Road. The weather was chilly for the time of year, and there had been a heavy fog earlier in the morning. Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2010-01-09.

For me … refreshing, extremely impressive, and certainly the highlight of the conference … was a multi-media presentation … on the second morning, just after the coffee break … by Mr. Karan Grover, the renowned Indian Architect.  He is quite an individual !

Before the break, delegates had been treated to an elaboration of the Environmental Design Innovations incorporated into the 71 storey Pearl River Tower (Guangzhou, China), by Mr. Varun Kohli of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) in New York.  Construction of the Tower is now well under way.  Afterwards, however, an important discussion took place concerning the issue of fire safety, and fire engineering generally, in Sustainable Buildings.  It became clear to all of the participants that this issue is a major oversight … an intentional gap … in the design of these buildings.  I made the point, forcibly, that Sustainable Fire Engineering is open to innovation and design creativity. There will be an important follow-up to this discussion.

Colour photograph showing a silly tourist on a bicycle rickshaw, as he is brought sightseeing around the Bazaar District in Old Delhi. Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by Mr. Daljeet Singh, Ministry of Tourism, with CJ Walsh's camera. 2010-01-09.

Colour photograph showing a silly tourist on a bicycle rickshaw, as he is brought sightseeing around the Bazaar District in Old Delhi. Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by Mr. Daljeet Singh, Ministry of Tourism, with CJ Walsh's camera. 2010-01-09.

Unfortunately, the conference was peppered with references to ‘Green’ Buildings … an outdated marketing concept (!) … which, within its limited world-view, gives people the false comfort of not having to deal with thorny issues such as ‘social justice, solidarity & inclusion for all’.  I have discussed this issue many times in previous posts.

Even more unfortunately, where the Brundtland Definition of ‘Sustainable Development’ was actually presented in one session … as usual, it was only the first half of the definition which made any appearance.  The second, and more important, half of the definition had mysteriously vanished without trace … which made the whole effort a meaningless exercise !   What a waste !!   No wonder there is such confusion over the concept … at all levels … in most countries !!!

It was not surprising, therefore, that what was not stressed enough, during the entire conference, was that Sustainable Design Solutions must be appropriate to local geography, climate, economy, culture, social need and language(s)/dialect(s), etc.  The LEED Building Rating System (USA), for example, is not being properly adapted to local conditions in India !

A final issue … another major oversight … another intentional gap … in the design of buildings … Accessibility-for-All !   Even though India ratified the 2006 UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 1st October 2007 … this essential aspect of design … certainly in Sustainable Buildings … received no mention whatever during the conference … except by yours truly, in my presentation.

Overall … a magnificent achievement for the organizers !

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