It took nearly 30 minutes before they realized their mistake
July 17, 2019 12:03 PM   Subscribe

I just read this article - it is harrowing. It also shows the challenges of trying to buy technical solutions to complex problems. Worth the read! As an architect it gives me plenty to think about, and some ammunition for when clients want to buy capital intensive technical solutions to perceived risks that would be better addressed through increased investment in staffing and policy.
posted by meinvt at 12:10 PM on July 17, 2019 [14 favorites]

wow I guess I'm not entirely surprised to hear this. that fire was so massive.
posted by supermedusa at 12:25 PM on July 17, 2019

Death, taxes, and "human error"...
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:35 PM on July 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

In before people start griping about them — I thought the interactive and media elements were very well done, and they greatly enhanced both my understanding and experience of the story.
posted by wreckingball at 12:38 PM on July 17, 2019 [18 favorites]

Yeah, this piece is an example of using the strengths of the web to tell a complex story in a clear and informative way.
posted by vibrotronica at 12:50 PM on July 17, 2019 [9 favorites]

A gripping story to be sure. However, I am certain most people watching, myself included, as this fire spread as quickly as it did and consume as much fuel as it did were under the assumption that the cathedral was going to collapse. The surprise lies in the fact it didn't.
posted by MorgansAmoebas at 12:54 PM on July 17, 2019 [5 favorites]

The guard [looked for the fire in] the attic of a small adjacent building, the sacristy [instead of the cathedral]

... [the security staff] had been working at Notre-Dame just three days when the fire broke out, stationed since 7 a.m. [and] was on the second leg of a double shift...

The message that scrolled across the monitor ... “Attic Nave Sacristy ZDA-110-3-15-1 aspirating framework” — indicating an aspirating detector in the cathedral’s attic, which was also known as the framework.
Typical problems in safety systems. No training, fatigue, shitty alarms designed for signal debugging with no navigation assistance, and perceived false alarm rates high enough to discourage fast action.

When I first visited a power grid control room I was skeptical of the operators' insistence on having 24 hour TV news on the big wallboard. This is why.
posted by anthill at 1:15 PM on July 17, 2019 [15 favorites]

The 3-d graphics are great. They illuminate just how difficult it was to get to the attic and to the north tower.

And yeah, this should be taught in UX courses. I wonder if anyone thought about the crappy signaling before it suddenly became catastrophic.
posted by zompist at 1:47 PM on July 17, 2019 [3 favorites]

Matthias Burger did a great video about the architecture, woodworking, recent construction related changes, and the progression of the fire in relation to them.
posted by Poldo at 2:11 PM on July 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

Seems like the kind of thing Langewiseche could get a book out of.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:39 PM on July 17, 2019 [5 favorites]

This was an excellent article.

(But someone needs to tell the New York Times that the rector didn't say, "For Parisians, Notre-Dame is Notre-Dame"; he said, "For Parisians, Notre-Dame is our mother." Come on, even I can figure that one out.)
posted by kyrademon at 3:00 PM on July 17, 2019 [14 favorites]

Couldn't help but wonder ... why have the guard check? It took six years to design the alarm system. That alarm could have gone directly to the nearest fire station.
posted by Twang at 4:27 PM on July 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'm guessing because of false alarms, it's a lot less wasteful to have someone on site check if it is real then to call out the whole fire brigade. I'd be curious to know how many false alarms they'd had since the system had been put in -- the general casualness of how they treated the alarm suggests a lot.
posted by tavella at 4:38 PM on July 17, 2019 [5 favorites]

It's pretty much a fundamental tradeoff that the more sensitive a detection system is, the more false alarms you get. Now, maybe if you have a building that is particularly vulnerable and the consquence of error is particularly high, you go ahead and respond knowing that 80% of the calls are going to be false alarms.
posted by wnissen at 4:48 PM on July 17, 2019 [4 favorites] go ahead and respond...
Might have been smarter/cheaper/less catastrophic in the long run.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:05 PM on July 17, 2019

Maybe the rector should have thought before saying that "for Parisians, Notre Dame is our mother". As it happens, both Ariel Weil, the mayor of the Fourth Arondissement, and Myriam Chudzinski, who led the firefighters to the roof of Notre Dame, are Jewish. The rector's claim is contrary to the French value of Laïcité and erases the many Parisians for which this claim is simply not true.

It's not as if the rector doesn't know this: Notre Dame has (had?) many statues beheaded by Parisians in a fit of anti-religious and anti-royalist fervour. Furthermore, the facade has a typically antisemitic representation of the medieval theme Ecclesia et Synagoga, Church and Synagogue, with "Synagogue" represented as an uncrowned woman with a broken staff, blindfolded by a snake. The cathedral has always presented a triumphalist and exclusionist message, and although I'm glad it was saved I can't help thinking that the Church should do some thinking about what it represents.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:46 PM on July 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

It's extremely easy to set off fire alarms during construction - given all the roof scaffolding I wonder if they'd been having false alarms from that.
posted by xiw at 8:15 PM on July 17, 2019

Aditya Chakrabortty: The lesson from the ruins of Notre Dame: don’t rely on billionaires
At the time of the fire near the Seine, you could barely move for expressions of cashmere-clad concern. Take the family and foundation behind L’Oréal, who at the time declared how “touched” they were “by this drama that unites beyond cultures and beliefs [and] intend to take part in the collective effort and talents needed to meet this immense challenge, which touches the heart of our country”. As of mid-June, they had handed over a big fat zero. The same goes for oil giant Total.

“It is more blessed to give than to receive,” said Jesus. To which anyone surveying the Notre Dame debacle might advise the son of God to get a better brand manager. Because the billionaires who promised those vast sums have received all the credit while not giving more than a fraction of the money.

They have banked the publicity, while dreaming up small print that didn’t exist in the spring. As another charity executive, Célia Vérot, said: “It’s a voluntary donation, so the companies are waiting for the government’s vision to see what precisely they want to fund.” It’s as if the vast project of rebuilding a 12th-century masterpiece was a breakfast buffet from which one could pick and choose.

Meanwhile, the salaries of 150 workers on site have to be paid. The 300 or so tonnes of lead in the church roof pose a toxic threat that must be cleaned up before the rebuilding can happen. And pregnant women and children living nearby are undergoing blood tests for possible poisoning. But funding such dirty, unglamorous, essential work is not for the luxury-goods billionaires. As the Notre Dame official said last month, they don’t want their money “just to pay employees’ salaries”. Heaven forfend! Not when one could endow to future generations the Gucci Basilica or a Moët Hennessy gift shop, so you, too, can enjoy the miracle of sparkling wine, or a nave by L’Oréal (tagline: Because Jesus is Worth It).

For the super-rich, giving is really taking. Taking power, that is, from the rest of society.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:08 AM on July 18, 2019 [11 favorites]

300 étapes? Peut-être devriez-vous installer un ascenseur.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:42 AM on July 18, 2019

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