Grenfell Tower

RESIDENTIAL TOWER BLOCK FIRES – WHAT CAN BE DONE?

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The deadly fire which engulfed London’s Grenfell Tower in June has shocked the nation. The West London high-rise tower block had 24 storeys, and the blaze is thought to have taken the lives of at least 80 residents. There hasn’t been a fatal fire of this scale in a residential block in the UK for many years, and an investigation has been launched following safety concerns of public housing.

Nobody should have to go to sleep in their homes and not wake up the following day, and the Grenfell Tower blaze has caused a political debate. Why are tragedies like this happening in 2017? After cladding was blamed for the rapid spread of the fire, building regulations and fire safety regulations are being reviewed by the government, but it’s obviously too little too late.

Unfortunately, these types of fires in high-rise buildings happen all over the world, and some countries handle them better than others. Dubai has some of the highest residential buildings in the world, and even though they are incredibly modern they are not exempt from dangerous fires. Shortly after the Grenfell disaster, a fire ripped through Torch Tower, one of Dubai’s residential skyscrapers where many expats live. It’s the second time in two years that a blaze has swept through the 79 story building, but both times all residents were evacuated and there were no fatalities or serious injuries.

Not all residents of high-rise residential buildings are as lucky. In 2010, a tower block fire in Shanghai claimed the lives of 53 people. At the start of the year in Iran, multiple deaths were reported in a 17-storey building, including 18 firefighters trying to tackle the blaze. Anybody who lives in a tower block or has a loved one living in an apartment is bound to worry about fire safety following these kinds of tragic events. Fires can take lives so suddenly, and to make it even more painful sometimes bodies can’t be identified.

Can we Prevent Tower Block Fires?

In both the Grenfell Tower and the Torch Tower fires, safety experts have blamed exterior cladding for allowing the blaze to spread rapidly. Usually, fires can be contained floor-by-floor which permits firefighters to control the blaze and makes it easier for occupants to escape and exit the building. With the fire ripping through the building and rising through windows thanks to the cladding, it’s harder for firefighters to contain and there is less time for residents to be evacuated. More fire-resistant materials need to be used, and authorities are now testing cladding samples on all tower blocks across the UK.

Additionally, it came to surface that residents at Grenfell Tower had highlighted fire safety concerns for years before the catastrophe. They say fire equipment hadn’t been tested in over a year and the official advice to ‘stay put’ cost lives. Survivors have claimed that the fire alarm and sprinklers in the building failed as the fire engulfed the tower.

Both building regulations and the design of high rise buildings need to be reviewed to prevent any more deadly disasters.

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On August 26, 2017
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