Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fire Safety Lessons From 1980 SAS Iranian Embassy Siege

On the 5th of May 1980 the British SAS carried out a raid on the Iranian Embassy in London that has gone down in history. After a siege that had lasted for five days after gunman entered the building and took the occupants hostage the SAS commandos carried out what can only be described as a dramatic rescue operation as the world looked on in amazement.

Five of the six terrorist gunmen were killed during the raid and one was taken prisoner after being identified by the rescued hostages.

Millions of people got to see the SAS in action live on TV as the drama unfolded and the iconic images of that day will never be forgotten as the world saw what the best special forces unit on the planet was capable of achieving. It sent a message out that terrorism on British soil would not be dealt with lightly.

Grenades were thrown through windows as thirty SAS troops stormed the embassy from the front and rear. Screams were heard echoing from the building in Kensington as machine gun fire erupted and fifteen minutes later the hostages emerged safe. In the end one hostage was killed and two other injured.

The then Home Secretary William Whitelaw gave the order to attack after Iranian press attaché Abbas Lavasani was shot dead by the terrorists and his body dumped on the street outside.

After the raid the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher visited the SAS troops to congratulate them on a job well done and the success of the mission.

During the rescue mission the building caught alight as stun grenades were detonated in the rooms of the embassy and explosive charges used to break through the armoured windows on entry. By the end of the assault the building was well alight and was completely gutted inside by the ravaging fire that ensued.

The fire spread quickly as curtains burst into flames and the fire spread without anyone able to fight it due to the battle that was raging inside. The SAS managed to evacuate everyone from the building and it was then left to burn as it was unsafe for fire fighters to enter.

It is an acceptable after effect of such a military action that a building will often catch alight. A good fire alarm system would most likely be in place now and a sprinkler or water mist system would operate to quench and extinguish the flames automatically.

In the event of an accidental fire in a work premises staff could use fire extinguishers such as foam and CO2 models to combat the flames quickly and prevent further spread. Of course this would be impossibility in an event such as the 1980 siege but thankfully it 8is pretty rare to witness such an action.

A foreign embassy actually falls outside of UK and EU fire regulations as it is a piece of land that belongs to the sovereign state that owns it, Iran in this case. It is therefore not subject to having fire safety systems in place that a UK work place would require by law as it is exempt under diplomatic rules. Because of this many embassies in the UK actually have systems that would not pass stringent UK regulations and as such can pose an increased risk of fire spreading.

It's a little realised fact that this is the case but should be taken into account if you are ever present in an embassy and a fire starts.

By : Jake_Langwith

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