It seems to me that the biggest issue with the fire system was the lack of a graphical display of the alarm... with all the security cameras and screens likely to already be in place, why not add one with maps of the cathedral, showing up in red when an alarm triggers? The need to understand shortcodes it waiting for disaster...
i agree that the lack of a graphic/synoptic display for the smoke detection system was a horrid flaw, especially when rapid response is needed.
However, i feel that the lack of an automatic extinguishing system was pretty grave too; given the excellent record of automatic fire sprinklers in containing -- if not fully extinguishing -- fires, well before the fire brigade arrives.
Of course, accidental activation is a serious concern, but this can be addressed, whether through the use of a double-interlock preaction scheme (where the piping is kept water-free with a valve that is opened only when the heat/smoke detectors signal a fire; and even once the pipes are filled with water, sprinkler heads need to be individually activated with heat) or using a gaseous clean-agent instead of water.
I heard the largest end customers were shipbuilders and police stations; a few systems were installed in underground public spaces such as train stations.
(Don't ask if the police has ever used the water spray as a taming device in the cells. I don't really want to know.)
By my interpretation, your last paragraph seems to accuse police of very specific misbehavior, but without any evidence, and even with an explicit desire to avoid resolving your accusation one way or another.
I hope you agree that we should take every single accusation of wrongdoing extremely seriously: only then can we truly achieve accountability for bad behavior, while celebrating and rewarding good behavior.
Unfortunately, purely speculative accusations of specific wrongdoing like this compromises our ability in general to take accusations seriously! It also subtly harms the reputations of good people within the accused group, if the accusation is unfounded.
For example, imagine if I said out of the blue:
“I worked with <anilakar> through all April 2019. (Don’t ask me if <anilakar> ever stole a MacBook Pro from the Apple Store on April 5th 2019 at 3:45pm. I don’t want to know anything about whether that did or did not happen.)”
Hopefully this illustrates the potential harm of such comments.
anilakar worded their comment such a specific fashion as to avoid making any accusations. They are allowed to muse openly. Your comment is unnecessary.
> A willingness to sacrifice its pristine state for a compromise between what was possible 850 years ago and what is sensible today could have saved the spire, experts said...
> But the main reason to opt against fire walls, Mr. Mouton said, was because it risked “mutilating” the structure. “It’s true,” he said, that the idea had been floated at the time, “but it was discarded.”
> “It changes the appearance but also the elements, because to put up a partition you need to cut the wood. It’s mutilating,” Mr. Mouton said. Mr. Prunet added that sprinklers were not added because they would “drown the whole structure.” Instead, they said, the team had banked on prevention and detection. This was a conscious choice.
Waiting for the fire department to show up and start spraying the structure with high-pressure hoses in order to contain a fire that got much larger in the intervening time because it wasn't being mitigated by a sprinkler system, on the other hand, doesn't seem to have damaged the structure at all.
Hindsight really is 20/20.
It's also interesting that fire mitigation measures were discarded in the interest of historic preservation. The charpente being a part of the building that basically nobody ever sees, the question arises, "preserving it for who?" Or had the preservation become an end in and of itself?
Also, the tall spire was added (historically) fairly recently. It was not an original part of the roof that burned. So apparently, earlier people were not "afraid" of altering it.
My house has a fire sprinkler system. Each nozzle is heat activated, in that the heat from a fire melts a plug allowing the water to flow. Only the hot valves activate, not everything.
The contractor told me which would I prefer, a sprinkler spraying some water around, or a firehose through the window?
Anyhow, at the time I did some research and found that nobody had died in a fire in the US in a room that had working sprinklers. It's pretty darn compelling.
That's why i specifically mentioned double-interlock preaction systems, where if someone hits the sprinkler and causes it to open, the only thing that comes out is compressed air (and a trouble/supervisory alarm sounds).
Or perhaps wrapping or covering the wood in mineral/stone wool insulation:
Rockwool is the most popular product, so you'll see a lot of videos (like above) featuring them, but I'm sure there are others.
Of course an extinguisher system can also be added, but a bunch of batts could be done quickly and inexpensively for a quick win.
For example, the aviation industry has standard terms for things. "Takeoff Power" means full power. Can you guess what happened? A pilot needed to abort a landing, and yelled "takeoff power" to the copilot, who promptly chopped the power, an accident ensued. This phrase was then changed to (I think) "Full Power".
The Air Force didn't learn from that civil aviation incident until it happened to them, too, then they fixed it.
It seems obvious, doesn't it? Everybody missed it.
It takes an entirely different mindset to properly give, receive, and execute concise instructions in real-time. People who have not had considerable practice at this tend to mess it up horrendously. As seen above, even people who are accustomed to doing it will still mess it up, big time! (This is why submarine bridge crew speak to each other in the highly stylized way they do. Also, try playing Artemis with noobs, and you'll see why as well.)
Many people do not have short-term clocks in their heads! Those same people also can't properly add-up in real-time the time-intervals of the manual processes they're doing and about to do. Even if you tell them they are going to run down a deadline and mess something up, they can't properly process what you tell them. It's like telling a pitch-deaf amateur musician that they're out of tune. They're either confused by the input, or they think you're making stuff up to annoy them.
(I remember taking some friends into low security space for the first time in Eve Online. Some player-killers show up in our system, and I tell them, "Warp to me now!" The reaction? The husband starts in on this involved argument with me about it, saying, that would end up with us in the middle of nowhere! Arrgh! Yes, that would've been the point!)
The same thing also goes for medium and long term time frames, which is relevant to programming, business, and startups.
The reaction of a manager who's watched too many Simpsons episodes .
If also read of "Max Power" for the situation you are describing.
Most people aren't great at their jobs, they're average or worse than average.
The vast majority of people have more than the mean number of legs per person.
True for median, (by definition) but false for mean and mode.
Note that everybody missed the takeoff power thing. You can't fix it by hiring better people.
There seem to be multiple points of failure on the critical path. Yes the interface might be sub-perfect, but there is also a human on the critical path, who started work at 7am, meaning he's been working for 12 hours now. There is a reason regulation usually mandates limited hours for safety critical jobs.
Why not automatically inform the fire department, ensuring that there is not one single critical path but an alternate option? Relying on the presence and correct reaction of a single security guard sounds like a less than perfect idea.
I think this was the most confusing part of the response to me. Even my home security system calls the fire department by default and my condo isn’t an 850 year old landmark. It made me wonder whether the system produced a lot of false alarms that would make an immediate default response impractical.
Non-residential buildings are often charged for false alarms, so standard procedure is to have a human confirm things first:
If confirmation is not done in x minutes, there is an automatic call though (with the requisite charge back for false alarms).
Depends on area. Dense urban streets where contagion of fire may require this while a remote home in a rural may mean this route mitigation isn't necesary. However in both and all cases a rapid response is needed as lives are at risk.
”I suggested a program change to prevent a prelaunch program being selected during flight. But the higher-ups at MIT and Nasa said the astronauts were too well trained to make such a mistake. Midcourse on the very next mission – Apollo 8 – one of the astronauts on board accidentally did exactly what Lauren had done. The Lauren bug! It created much havoc and required the mission to be reconfigured. After that, they let me put the program change in, all right.”
And when a project has some incentive (often financial penalty when deadline are not respected), company will give unrealistic deadlines to win the contract and then just run the penalty has normal cost of the projects.
I know some project that had years of delay and were still profitable for the private company.
Obviously it's not always the case, but having work for both a state owned company contracting private contractor and for a private contractor seeking public contract, it has certainly made me not optimistic about any projects funded by public money.
Most contracts are cookie cutter templates, so everyone is familiar with them and lawyers don't need to be called in to create bespoke solutions for every project. There are various options if fixed-priced or cost-plus is desired, and pre-agreed schedule is decided on so that payments only go out at specific milestones.
Can anyone from the UK comment on the pros/cons of the system?
Solves many, many problems and gets people working in collaboration. As a contractor I need to know the clients goals and as a client I need to help make the contract profitable.
All pros - no cons from me.
Not directly related but comical to me, I recently heard from someone working with IBM that they are really upset over the calls from Washington to regulate big tech. Upset because they aren’t mentioned by politicians or the media as big tech. It’s almost like they don’t really matter anymore.
To be fair, most of the calls concern American big tech companies. Not sure IBM qualifies anymore.
There was even a project handle by Sopra-Steria that went so awry that even the Government said stop and went on to continue using their old solution. For them to do that takes a loooot of screwing up. Nevertheless, they were still contracted for other projects afterward :) .
Everyone has a concern or an area they take over. There's a reason most power structures end up with a single person being the decision maker. For better or worse, it seems there needs to be one person who is responsible for busting everyone's chops and asking the hard questions.
I've seen this psychology play out even in small non-profits where everyone has good intentions.
Secondly, yes, most contractor focus on money, not really doing the best job they can (I mean, in many way, the fire is a proof of this).
I work for, arguably, one of the most critical French industry. One that France rely on for security and, somewhat, energy. Some of the worker were proud of doing something for their country, but the decision from higher-ups were purely financial. And it is what is expected from them to be honest.
I specifically said I wasn’t disputing the claim in general, only the extent to which a contractor would risk it like this in a high-profile case.
Oh man, that hits home
The man monitoring the alarm, even though he had just started the job, says he did understand the code and where the alarm was and communicated that information to the guard. He does not claim that the problem was he didn't understand the code or there was anything wrong with the design of the alarm system. The guard on the other hand says the man monitoring the alarm told him the wrong location to go to.
Neither of these issues though are related to the subsequent decision to call his supervisor as the number of alarms going off increased, and then sit around and do nothing while waiting for a call back. Nor does this have anything to do with the design of the alarm display.
Other things I saw:
- people scared to talk about what happened because of blame issues
- putting new employees in critical situations with only three days of training
It's not uncommon for a fire crew to advance into an exposed position to make an attack or search for victims. As was the case here, there is usually a hoseline or two set up in a defensive position, covering their escape path. The difference is, this is usually done in a comparatively small space (i.e. a crew holding the staircase of a house while a second crew searches the upstairs). If the defensive position starts to look at risk, the exposed crew can make it back within a minute or two.
The crew in the northern tower of Notre-Dame would have taken far longer than that to make it back through, and it's very likely that if the defensive position had been lost, it wouldn't have been recognized until it was too late, trapping the crew in the tower.
The call was made knowing that there may be casualties among them
Morals aside, it kind of make sense from an economical standpoint: a single guy dies, that's sad. A father of four dies, that's sad and the community has to support four orphans...
Controversial opinion: making that call to save living creatures is fine in my personal moral compass. Make that call for a building, be it symbolic and of rich cultural significance, not so much.
As long as nobody is in danger, do everything to save it but if it burns to the ground, it can be rebuilt.
A lost life and its consequences cannot.
I was, honestly, furious, when I heard the commander chose to send his men into the northern tower simply to save a pile of rocks....
No one entered that building against their will. Quite the opposite, I'm sure (speaking from personal experience), the crews on scene would have been frustrated had they been told they had to stay out.
If it helps, consider it an extreme sport (in fact, firefighting is quite a bit safer than many sports). Firefighting often amounts to people engaging in what is arguably "optional" activities, for reasons that aren't necessarily clear from a purely rational standpoint. The actual reasons are a combination of many factors. There is certainly a desire to preserve property (especially when that property is irreplaceable), but there is also the adrenaline rush of working inside a burning structure, the camaraderie among the crews, etc.
If they are destroyed, they are lost to every future human being from now until the end of the universe. Even with time discounting, that's a great cultural loss. Should we risk lives to preserve historical & cultural heritage? Yes, absolutely.
If you're going to engage in reductio ad absurdum, at least be consistent and call the men "meatbags".
Thankfully the stakes are very rarely so high, and courage of this calibre is rarely called upon.
On reddit especially, I was downvoted heavily for explaining that they were likely making a defensive stand inside the structure (similar comments on HN were well received).
“The fire warning system at Notre-Dame took dozens of experts six years to put together, and in the end involved thousands of pages of diagrams, maps, spreadsheets and contracts, according to archival documents found in a suburban Paris library by The Times.
The result was a system so arcane that when it was called upon to do the one thing that mattered — warn “fire!” and say where — it produced instead a nearly indecipherable message.”
The message (assembled):
“Attic Nave Sacristy.” “ZDA-110-3-15-1” “aspirating framework”
>The employee monitoring the smoke alarm panel at Notre-Dame cathedral was just three days on the job when the red warning light flashed on the evening of April 15: “Feu.” Fire.
>Finally, the guard radioed the fire security employee to call the fire department. It was 6:48, 30 minutes after the first red signal lit up the word “Feu.”
The message specifying the location of the fire could have been more clear, but the fact that the fire alarm was going off was clear. When you see "Feu" flashing red on the alarm panel, the correct course of action is obvious. The greatest failure was that the guards tried to go find the fire, wasting 30 minutes, instead of just calling the fire brigade immediately.
If a tsunami warning is being sounded, would you go down to the beach to try to spot it first, or would you run for the high ground?
If a warning of a bombing came, would you go outside with binoculars and try to spot the planes first, or would you run down into the air raid shelter?
If air-raid sirens (which we do have here in Switzerland) would start sounding, nobody would seek shelter, because everyone would consider an attack too unlikely.
Of course, in retrospect, it would have been better to call the firefighters first. But to make such consequential decisions three days into a new job requires proper training and clearly defined procedures.
This is actually standard procedure in many places. Security guards often have x minutes to see if it's a false alarm:
Non-residential buildings are often charged for false alarms, so the landlord may wish to first confirm if the fire brigade is actually needed. If you work in an office tower, or live in an apartment or condo, you'll often have multi-stage fire alarm system: you don't actually evacuate unless either (a) it's a confirmed real incident, or (b) the confirmation timeout has been reached.
They were using a industry standard operating procedure (SOP) in a non-standard environment. Sometimes it's hard to know the situation is non-standard until after the fact.
Accepting an error rate at 98% for Notre Dame should be a no-brainer.
The question is what to do about it. Simply taking a step back and analyzing is not enough. Most of us have been on the projects that were overcomplicated and knew they were overcomplicated and knew a simpler solution and yet didn't have the power to do anything about it. The ultimate power is to be able to walk away form the project but how many people can afford that?
So, I believe the problem is not technical but rather socio-economic.
I am not sure how to solve it.
Been using it since I learned of it on HN and it's impressive the number of times it makes you take a step back and realize you were getting lost between you and yourself.
Find someone in the range of who your average user is, and offer to pay them a beer if they agree to use your interface to do some simple task on it for five minute while you take notes and record the screen. It's a sort-of game for them, short enough that it won't be a hassle, and they get a free beer out of it 'it's inexpensive for you and will reveal some obvious issues faster than a team of dedicated qa tester can ever hope to be.
Here it would be a simple "here is the alarm you get, identify what is the problem and where it is". Given parent post, 5$ and ten minute of beer testing would have told them how terrible it is.
Works fine with group too, ensure one person is the dedicated user, and offer to pay their drink tab.
Be ready to engage with them if they have question and do not be timid about keeping their drink coming if they so desire, as long as they provide valuable input.
It's so obviously stupidly simple, but the result are insane, it's very cheap and you get a perfect case of "how will average person x understand and deal with my software in that situation".
(first learned of it on a hn post years ago, adopted it for fun, kept it because it works too well)
What I thought of was:
- State the problem
- Get drunk
- Find an answer
- Sober up
- Study the problem again
- If you came to the same conclusion as when you were drunk, you are OK.
I've seen at least as much stakeholder or designer (backed by stakeholder) ego keeping UX-harming crap in, while plenty of people on the project are very aware of it, despite its being pointed out to them repeatedly. Sometimes they even make you spend more time (money) doing things the wrong way. It's bizarre.
This is a lack of training and a procedural failure - the usual configuration/process is that any alarm either automatically calls firefighters/police or via procedure the guard manually does this - immediately, not after 30min.
We'd expect a phrase to provide more granularity: (or YYYY-MM-DD), and as such, you'd read it exactly as: fire in the attic of the sacristy. The "nave" text is a bit weird, as the sacristy doesn't have a nave, but at the same time, the nave doesn't have a sacristy.
So the entire zone is called "Attic Nave Sacristy", and from that all you know is that there's apparently a fire somewhere in that zone -- could be on the floor of the nave, could be in the cathedral attic, could be somewhere in the sacristy building (even in the attic of the sacristy).
The irony is that you've made a version of the same mistake that either the security employee or the cathedral guard made -- assuming a specific location within that zone. Yours ("the nave attic") happens to be correct; one or both of them assumed it was "the attic of the sacristy building".
Sacristy seems to give the location of where in the nave, which considering that the cathedral is cardinally aligned, is a rather poor choice.
"Attic nave south" would have been a perfect description.
The real problem was that both the main cathedral and the sacristy (a separate building adjacent to the cathedral) had attics; either the security employee got confused and told the cathedral guard to check the sacristy's attic, or the guard got confused and decided to do that.
I suspect the employee, having been on duty only a few days, was not.
Fire is not something new for historical monuments.
I heard on the radio right after the collapse an architect saying at least half of fires starting on historical monuments happen during renovations. And quickly searching shows an insurance company saying it could be close to 3/4 of them (https://www.cahiers-techniques-batiment.fr/article/notre-dam...).
Sure that wouldn't have fixed everything but now instead of adding a couple of dozens or hundred millions to fund the fire warning system, we're now most likely looking at a cost of multiple billions...
I worry about the great libraries being consumed by fire. I do not understand why there isn't a larger effort to digitize them.
That said, I thought the Internet Archive is still engaged in an ambitious project to scan many books (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_scanning).
But was lack of funds really the root cause of the problem? If anything, the overcomplicated nature of the fire warning system seemed to have all the hallmarks of having too much money thrown at it and too many "cooks in the kitchen" designing it.
I'd love to see outages (for example) managed with the Incident Command (IC) system. Maybe some companies do this already, IDK. But IC works very well in any "WTF is happening?" emergency situation.
(I assume it's the case in many other places)
Aerial operation would also require evacuating the area completely, which would end all other firefighting operations (so you'd actually be reducing the overall firefighting capacity on scene).
Thanks for providing a real explanation though.
aT tHe eXpEnSe oF rEaDaBiLiTy
Sometimes the answer is nothing (the result of the rule break may be minor) other times not.
Currently they are clearing the rubbles there using remote-controlled robots.
I’d hope that they were doing constant readiness drills.
Every couple of weeks they should have sent someone up to trigger a sensor and see how long it takes for someone to show up.
This comes up every time a NYTimes interactive comes out but wow, the narrative flow on this one really is incredible. The animations smoothly transitioning to full text, the collage of socal media posts... It feels much more like watching a documentary than reading an article.
I hope this catches on, it's what I've been promised with this whole hypermedia shebang!
Similar comment at the time:
> The NYT just kinda blew my mind. A newspaper article just blew my mind. This is, by far, the best multimedia storytelling I think I've ever seen. Kudos to the team involved in putting this together, you've shown me the future of media and the internet.
I don't really understand how the same paper does these incredible articles and then totally whiffs on other attempts such as:
After all, this was a story about how people engaging in a purely _voluntary_ (and mind you, luxury) sport were causing and encountering avalanches. Hardly the most exposé-of-power, human-nature-revealing, check-on-society pieces of journalism. Just stop hiking off trail to go snowboarding on unstable mountains! Sheesh.
Doing this work on a "low-stakes" story means that you have more room to experiment.
Personally I like that we get to see it and they get to try it out in production.
So while they do use the position on the page they're not trying to override the default behaviour, they just add to it. The only real change to scrolling behaviour are the few elements that remain in screen for a short while, which is fairly nonintrusive, and doesn't really feel unfamiliar (although it might have if they didn't cleverly overlay a few boxes that scrolled normally).
Front page images load several seconds after they're scrolled into view. I looked at the moon story and it was frozen for about 10 seconds before a start button appeared. In the story I can scroll, but it's about 5fps, and the blue dots and the secondary map are glitching on/through the moon.
I am using a relatively new smartphone, a galaxy s8, something with more power than most average consumers have (most people have a cheap budget phone, not the latest iPhone).
The format definitely was interesting tho, I can see the potential of these types of tools.
Is my understanding mistaken here?
I wonder how much it costs them compared to a regular article
This is the kind of longform we build. Hope that helps :)
I would disagree. It feels irritating to me when some some parts of article content are scrolling and some parts are still (unless still parts are some irrelevant borders).
Also the CPU load is big, which causes my computer fan to run full speed during scrolling.
If nothing ever spins up your fan, you wasted a lot of money on a new computer.
Seriously? Putting the terrorist attacks in the same context as the Yellow Vest protests? One is an attack on civilians by extremist foreign groups, the other is those citizens protesting against a government decision that hurts them, which is a constitutional right in both France and the US... And this right to protest is what arguably made France a republic in the first place and led many other countries to follow on its steps.
And labeling the protest as violent is dishonest at best, the police were violent and started throwing tear gas grenades at people, which made many protesters lose a hand or an eye (only the ones I saw, I'm sure there are many others who weren't recorded and put on Youtube).
We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20457706.
This behavior forced the city to endure blockades every Saturday and holiday for months. Small businesses near the riot areas were closed and had their windows shattered or spray painted by protestors. Ordinary citizens and their kids couldn't do errands and in some cases leave their apartments for on one out of two days off a week for months on end.
The protests were violent. Who started it you can debate, but against tons of news articles, photos and videos of people fighting hand to hand, getting gassed or throwing cobblestones, lighting buildings on fire...you don't really have much of a factual foundation to say Paris didn't suffer months of violent protests before the ND fire.
That is only what is meant here, of course these are 2 different things.
They could also have added the Algerian African Cup victories "celebrations" that turned into riots and looting (we'll see what happen next Friday).
Um, yes? People died in protests, and many terrorists were from France or Belgium.
They do NOT represent common french people, they are in one way or the other extremists, doing what extremists usually do - wreak havoc left and right, and don't give a nanofraction of a fk about others and consequences. How do I know - I have tons of french colleagues, actually roughly 50% of the workforce, and every single one of them was annoyed as hell with them. Initial sympathies for protests against additional 10% diesel tax vaned very quickly as annoyances mounted. Utter disregard for any environmental issues was obvious - the reason for the tax, constant burning of crap in barrels on yellow vest posts, day long revving of engines in centers of the towns etc.
Maybe I missed it, but where were protests about true french issues - bureaucracy that is a far cry from properly functioning western democracy and is a proper drag on economy (it took a colleague 1.5 years to change his driving license and story is beyond ridiculous), messed up "me-first" mentality so common there, or rampant corruption on all levels on society? Where was something about making government slim, effective? Those actions could bring lowering of taxes, some real benefits to everybody. No, those wanted to keep everything as it is, comfy stable jobs with 10 weeks of paid vacation and tons of other perks, just somehow magically have more money.
France barely emits 0.1% of world's CO2, how is it fair to tax fuel for cars (note that air traffic is left alone)? How is it fair when nothing is planned to help people live and work without their car?
Edit: so far, all responses conveniently avoid the part where the government is taxing gas more and more, without making the investments to provide citizens with other means of transportation. Not all of France is Paris or Bordeaux or Lyon. Just like not all the US is NYC and SF. The majority of the population has no access to reliable public transportation to even consider not using their car.
Sure, because they have 0.09% of the world's population.
> how is it fair to tax fuel for cars (note that air traffic is left alone)?
Both should be taxed.
That's using some rounding, but it's reasonably close for discussion purposes.
Why does it matter their percentage of the world population? Are you defending that we should reward nations where people don't care about birth control and explode their demographics while arguing in favor of climate action?
That's the very definition of speculation.
"speculation seems quite unfounded"
Purely a matter of personal opinion. There is a clear trend at play in France that is very uncomfortable and disturbing. I think it's lunacy to ignore it. But to each their own.
That such speculation is often met with animosity is strange in itself.
The conspiracy theory, if there is one, is that there is evidence of arson, but it's being suppressed by the authorities. I'm explicitly not taking a stance on that.
It's in French and I don't have the energy to make a summary of it, but basically your original article is a mix of misreading and bad faith interpretations of an already biased original source.