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Lessons from London's high-rise fire

The deadly London high-rise fire that killed 79 people on June 14, 2017, led to numerous questions. Why did the fire spread so quickly? Were there proper safety protections in place, such as sprinkler systems, fireproof doors and flame resistant building materials?

The fire started when a refrigerator on the 24th floor exploded. The fire spread to the window, and the outside siding caught fire, spreading upward to higher level floors. Apartment complexes can be dangerous places when there is a fire, particularly for residents on higher levels. If the building is up to code and regulations are properly followed, it can save lives. Unfortunately, in many high-rises, such as the Grenfell Tower in London, the safeguards in place to prevent casualties from a fire are lacking.

Grenfell Tower did not follow regulations

In a renovation to the building, Grenfell Tower used siding that has been banned in the United Kingdom. The siding combined polyethylene foam insulation on the inside with two layers of aluminum.

This type of siding is also banned in the U.S. In addition, it is against the law to have only single-exit stairways in high-rises, which also is suspected as the reason for the massive casualties in the Grenfell Tower. As a final straw, many of the apartments lacked automatic fire sprinklers.

The failure to follow fire safety precautions led to the preventable deaths of many.

Apartment buildings must follow proper fire safety regulations

We have numerous regulations in the U.S. regarding fire safety for high-rise apartment buildings. A high-rise is considered any building above 40 stories tall. Low-rise apartment buildings, which are 40 or fewer stories, still have safety regulations, but have fewer restrictions on siding and insulation, as people can be evacuated more quickly through fire ladders.

As the tragic events of June 14 show, such safety regulations should not be ignored.

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