What happens when lawmakers ignore the work of fire investigators? Could this incredible tragedy be avoided?
Here’s what we know now (11am EST):
At just before 1am (London Time) this morning, a fire broke out on the 4th floor of a public housing tower in North Kensington, London, England. The 24 -story Grenfell Tower, originally built in 1974, has approximately 120 individual apartment style units. The tower underwent a $11,000,000 (8.7 million pound) refurbishment, which was completed in May of 2016. The refurbishment did not include the installation of a fire sprinkler system.
The London Fire Brigade was notified at 12:54am and immediately dispatched crews to the scene – where they remain at this hour. According to the London Telegraph website, approximately, 200 firefighter and 40 units responded to the tragedy.
At press time, there were 6 confirmed dead but that number is expected rise as London Fire Brigade Investigators and First Responders continue their work at the scene. It is reported that at least 64 were injured with 20 being critical. Scores of people are still unaccounted for.
The cause of the fire is under investigation and has not been released at this time.
Deeper Problems May Be at Fault
If you review the work of the London media reporters – They’ve uncovered some seriously troubling facts regarding the Grenfell Towerblock and similar tragedies in the recent past.
Resident Safety Complaints Fall on Deaf Ears
The residents of Grenfell repeatedly complained the local housing authorities regarding serious safety concerns both prior during the renovation of the tower. The resident went so far as to create a Blog to document their concerns and raise awareness. They posted, at least 4 times, on fire related concerns. These posts include a disturbingly prophetic post in November of 2016 declaring “”only a catastrophic event” would bring an end to the safety violation at the tower block.
Questions remain. Why, if a significant refurbishment was underway, was the opportunity to install lie saving fire sprinklers and improved fire safety systems missed? Why were the complaints of resident dismissed?
Fire Investigation Report Ignored by Lawmakers
A similar tragedy occurred n July 2009, when six people were killed at more than 20 injured when in a blaze at Lakanal House, a tower block in Camberwell, south east London.
A report of the investigation, entitled “Report to the Secretary of State by the Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser on the emerging issues arising from the fatal fire at Lakanal House, Camberwell on 3 July 2009” was submitted to the appropriate lawmakers for action and revision of the appropriate regulations. [Read full text of the report here]. Lawmakers have repeatedly delayed the review of the report and the enactment of any legal reforms.
Could timely action on these recommendations have prevented today’s tragedy?
A Call For Action:
Let’s use this story as a catalyst and a dire lesson for all fire investigators and injury attorneys – we have to not only be “fact-finders”, but we need to continue to be strong, loud advocates for the victims of fire. Without our loud voices, laws and fire codes will not change quickly enough to prevent additional injury.
It isn’t enough to know the facts – we have a moral responsibility to actively transfer that knowledge to prevent further loss of life.
We need to be louder than the Roar of Fire.
(The content of this story is the personal opinion of Christine Meier, CMO, Meier Fire Investigation)
Cover Photo: Natalie Oxford – https://twitter.com/Natalie_Oxford/status/874835244989513729/photo/1, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=59913134