The fire in Grenfell Tower in London shocked the world in June. A building set right in the middle of a flourishing metropolis burned up before people’s eyes, leaving at least 80 dead. The tragedy is horrible on a number of levels, but perhaps the worst is this: it could happen again.
Grenfell Tower used what was, in fact, an illegal form of insulation that was highly flammable. A small fire in one apartment led to the whole building blazing up. Unfortunately, these circumstances could happen in many places and not just Britain.
To start with, many countries don’t even outlaw the type of insulation that caused the fire. Luckily, that is not the case in America, but that doesn’t mean that construction companies are not still cutting corners. That tactic can be found all over the world. The insulation, after all, was used primarily because it was cheap.
The best way to ensure the safety of everyone in buildings like Grenfell Tower is to have regular, rigorous checks to make sure the whole building is in compliance. More money should be invested in training up a league of experts who can scour buildings across every city to check not just for insulation but for alarms, cleared exits, and safe stairs. Remember, the next tragic fire is likely to look somewhat different from Grenfell. It could be the ventilation next time.
The next step is to make stricter regulations for construction companies. Now, this is certain to raise costs, but in the high-cost world of metropolitan construction, a little extra money on extra safety is well spent. There may even be potential government cost-sharing programs to develop in order to ease the burden for the first few years while construction companies get used to new regulations. Not only should we expect better than Grenfell, we should expect better than what we have now with apartment buildings. Unless there is an impetus to develop safer living standards, construction companies are sure to get sloppier and sloppier to save money. More regulations would reverse this trend.
The final important step is to raise the punishments for those who don’t comply with regulations. New or old, if a construction company doesn’t comply with one of the regulations, the punishment has to be severe. Fines should be heavy, not a tap on the wrist. If mistakes were intentional and put people at risk, there should be certain jail time for those responsible. A company willing to risk the death of others to save a dollar does not deserve to be in business.
It is an unfortunate fact that fires in apartments and office buildings are fairly common. In order to make sure those fires are localized and the disaster is contained, more has to be done on every front by local and federal governments. The ability is there to make safe buildings, and we must stop just assuming people are making the most of that ability. Those who lived in Grenfell assumed that, and they paid for it in the end.Read More »