IAFF and Grenfell : Another Missed Opportunity

Asleep at the Switch or Worse

On June 14, 2017, a fire consumed Grenfell Tower, a residential building located in North Kensington, London, killing 79 and injuring many more.

Rarely has a building fire garnered so much attention for so long a period of time.

Social media and the ghastly imagery are making sure that it is on the public consciousness in a big way.

It is a 21st-century Triangle Shirtwaist fire recalling the deadly New York City incident in 1911.

Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

Because of the size of the tragedy, the role that inappropriate building materials played in the rapid spread of the fire, as well as the lack of detection systems, it represented a unique opportunity for our union to reinforce and underscore critical themes with the public, the press and politicians.

It never happened.

Despite the many ways that the IAFF is theoretically employing social media and communications to advance our cause, they have been deafeningly silent.

No tweets, no press releases, no interviews, no news stories, no Frontline Briefs, no blog posts, no IAFFTV — no nothing.

It is a strategic communications black hole from a union that purports to teach local affiliates about strategic communications.

Physician heal thyself.

A Strategic Campaign

First, they should have decided on the tediously obvious strategic message:

Could a Grenfell Happen Here?

That question, deployed across the IAFF’s communications platform and tied to issues such as safe staffing, response times, building codes and protective equipment would have properly and very effectively advanced our key causes because the public is keenly interested.

Our Dear Leader should have been shopped to CNN and other [fake] news outlets as a subject matter expert.

The much-vaunted IAFF legislative operation should have called for a hearing on the Hill.

A google search of “IAFF Grenfell Fire” should have resulted in a cascade of results.

(Don’t bother searching, you will get nothing, zip, zero.)

How was it Bungled so Completely?

Before you can seize an opportunity you must have the mindset, creativity, and leadership to do so.

We have none of these and that’s three strikes so we’re out.

Our union does not have and hasn’t had an effective and coherent member-focused strategic mission for many years.

Two reasons overshadow all others.

First, the primary IAFF mission is a full time commitment to making Harold Schaitberger appear omniscient and brilliant; this takes so much effort there is time for little else.


Second, there is no focus or process to determine, based on facts, what is important and demanding of real attention, especially if it doesn’t immediately gratify Schaitberger.

IAFF leadership is so paralyzed and atrophied that they could not even endorse a candidate in the last presidential election.

The Grenfell failure is just the latest stunning example of a union coasting along with no plan or purpose.

Grenfell, epic tragedy that it is, was a ready made tool to improve safety and health and to show the public we really care.

What if we really don’t?





  • Joe Blow says:

    What a tragic missed opportunity. Harold and the entire board could have justified an an all expense paid trip to London. It could have been one of those ‘fact finding’ missions.

    First class travel, of course, 5 star hotels, luxury dining. Chauffeured Rolls? Hmmm…maybe a bit too much. Go with the Jag.

    The only thing stopping Harold would be the Brit reputation for food, not the best. Harold would not be down with fish n chips and a pint. Too working class, you know.

  • IslaFire says:

    Interesting Eric. I was thinking similarly when this tragedy occurred. Thank you for putting this on the record. Perhaps individual Locals should take the lead in cooperative efforts with their fire prevention and building departments.

  • IslaFire says:

    Reactive v. Proactive

    Unfortunately, the history of fire prevention is often reactive. Though the local governments knew of this hazard for many years, they ignored it.

    The IAFF should be at the forefront of fire prevention.

    Do they have a FF union in the UK?


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