Behind the Tape
In the following stories, please read statements from four of the Team Members that deployed for this event.
Mark Chapman, retired Thames Valley Police constable
On 31 August, I arrived at Bracknell for my Grenfell briefing. This deployment was in total contrast to previous ones that were office-based. On-site at Grenfell Tower, I was very fortunate to work directly alongside experienced Kenyons, whose knowledge and willingness to work under difficult conditions made the deployment more manageable. A team sense of humor also made life easier. At the end of the three-week deployment, certain matters were raised in relation to working conditions and, upon my return to Grenfell five weeks later, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had been addressed. This was an unusual but memorable deployment.
Tadhgh Lane, BSc (Hons) Forensic Science
Being able to return the survivors’ possessions back to them was a privilege, especially after everything they went through. It’s been really nice, after seeing the items going through the various personal effect (PE) stages, to return them to their rightful owners and see how much those items mean to them. There were also difficult times, too, listening to some of the survivors’ accounts of the losses they suffered, as well as the fact that some of them are still living in temporary accommodations, which brings its own difficulties. The most rewarding experience I had was returning possessions back to the nursery and getting to see how much of an impact having their toys, children’s artwork, etc. returned had on the staff and children. I remember bringing in some large toys with a colleague and, as we were bringing them inside, the children were ecstatic. Hearing from the staff about how much getting their effects back means to them and to the children just makes the work we do feel all the more important.
During this incident, I had the pleasure of working with fellow Team Members with backgrounds in forensic anthropology, the police force, dentistry and much more. They shared experiences from their work and previous deployments, which was very helpful and insightful, both for future deployments and for career advice. I was lucky enough during this deployment to have participated in most stages of the PE process, which provided me with plenty of opportunities to learn new skills as well as improve on my communication, leadership and problem-solving skills. I also had the opportunity to develop these skills in a live, high-pressure environment during this deployment. Taking high quality photographs of personal effects once they were inventoried to provide visual records for identification purposes, for example. This involved taking many photos a day at a fast pace while ensuring they were of the highest quality. This experience was important to me because forensic photography is a field that I am passionate about.
I was very nervous on my way to the first deployment as I didn't know very many Team Members and wasn't sure what the work would involve exactly, but once we introduced ourselves to each other at the briefing, I felt much more confident. After a few days of working with each other, I made quite a few friends. We developed a real sense of camaraderie looking out for each other and keeping morale high. During my second rotation, I was lucky enough to have a couple of Team Members from my first rotation also attending, but I also made a lot of new friends, as well as caught up with Team Members I met at a previous Bracknell training day. Most of us also went out to dinner every evening, touring the various restaurants around Bracknell, and a few of us even went to the newly built cinema to see Murder on the Orient Express, which was a personal highlight. I exchanged numbers with quite a few people and definitely intend to keep in touch.
Once you have been on your first deployment and have an idea of what to expect, everything starts to become second nature. Having been on two rotations at various stages of the recovery process, I feel much more confident and prepared to attend any future incidents, especially after hearing from a few Team Members that, due to the scale of the Grenfell recovery operation, this is one of the most challenging incidents they've ever responded to. Having met quite a few Team Members, all of whom have been lovely, I wouldn't hesitate to deploy again if given the opportunity. After you have deployed once it does become very addictive knowing you're able to "go behind the tape" and help those that are really in need and that you are a part of a select team of people able to provide that help is incredibly satisfying.
Rose Jennings, Scene of Crime Officer
Grenfell was my first ever deployment with Kenyon and I was lucky enough to have been part of most of the personal effects process (though not in a logical order!). I spent time in the tower removing items; I worked in the warehouse inventorying and cleaning effects and I also delivered personal items back to a survivor. Working all sides of the process let me see what a difference the teams were making for the survivors, the care taken with their belongings at all stages and the effort everyone was putting in to get it right.
Although I was in the tower for only a short period, and it was in a much altered state to how it was back in June, it left a real impact on me as to how harrowing an experience it must have been. The work was very physical but rewarding to know we were helping reunite people with at least some of their belongings. It was a great experience for me to get to work with such a range of people and the teams had such good camaraderie, even through long days and hard work, and friendships have been formed for life!
Samuel Charman, BSc (Hons) Criminology and Forensic Investigation
During recovery work in Grenfell Walk, our team discovered a fish tank that, three months after the start of the fire, still contained a few living fish. There was no electricity, and in spite of being without food and in deoxygenated water, seven of the original 30 fish had survived.
After the discovery of those still alive, we purchased food and provided it regularly in small doses to sustain them; however it was obvious at this point that they would need to be removed and placed in a new tank with treated water soon. From here, contacts with Bracknell offices were made and a chain of Team Members from the warehouse and the site were in support of the fish being rescued as part of the operation.
After weeks of contact with those in charge on-site and talks with Kenyon Vice President, Operations Robert Rowntree, it was decided that the tenants could be contacted to see what they wished to happen with the fish. They were unable to home them again, however, so I decided to carry on the rescue and ask if permission could be sought for me to adopt these fish. Within minutes after permission was granted, Team Member Jack Ganley and I went into the flat and placed the fish in temporary accommodation, which we labeled KART - Kenyon Animal Rescue Team.
Many officers and forensic staff on-site spoke about how amazing it was that the fish were alive and how, as a company, we took care of them. The fish were brought back to the warehouse and with the help of Jack, PE Data Team Member Rebecca Reid and me, they were taken back to my home where a tank was previously set up and ready for them. From here, Jack, Rebecca and I have decided to ask to be called for any animal related deployments, with us taking on the self-appointment roles of Director of Operations (me), Director of Animal Rescue (Jack) and Director of Animal Identification (Rebecca). Unfortunately, one of the fish has since passed; however, in the face of adversity, the fish have managed to produce an offspring, which KART has decided to name Phoenix due to ‘rising from the ashes’ of Grenfell.