Recent residential building fires a wake-up call that we should never forget

Commercial building fires need a building fire safety plan

By Doug Araki

When I heard and saw the fire happening at the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in London, I was in disbelief as to what I was seeing, and even worse how I was feeling, for all those people still in the building as the fire spread rapidly up the structure.

I asked myself, how could this happen today, and how do we prevent something like this from ever happening again where 79 people lose their lives due to a fire? Then not even a month later, we lose another three lives on the 26th floor at the Marc Polo apartment building fire in Honolulu, Hawaii.

This is our wake up call for building owners, property management and most importantly all of us to take personal responsibility to ensure our own safety. The next time the fire alarm sounds in your building, do not ignore it. When you are invited to participate in fire safety training or drills, do not treat this as an inconvenience, as it could mean the difference in staying alive.

Building fire safety plan

Many buildings today are equipped with some of the best early warning systems and equipment (fire alarms, voice communication, smoke control etc.) available, but they may not save your life if you choose not to act. Hence the importance of your building fire safety plan. This document is mandated by law for a very good reason: to offset panic and indecision, control fire hazards and prevent fires and when implemented to enhance the safety of its occupants.

I am not sure if these buildings had approved or up-to-date building fire safety plans or if they were implemented, but I cannot help but wonder if they had, maybe a few more lives would have been saved in spite of the causes. With proper fire safety training and drills, and knowing the buildings were not sprinklered, would this have factored into building occupants’ decision to stay or leave immediately?

Hopefully as time passes these lives lost will not be forgotten and will serve as a turning point in time when we look back and say that they all made a difference and gave us a wake-up call that none of us will forget.

Doug Araki is President of WPS Disaster Management Solutions.