Series of Safety Failures Led to London's Deadliest Fire in 100 Years

Grenfell Tower fire offers opportunity for home safety reminders.

Becky Turpin is Director of Home and Community for the National Safety Council.

​When one person suffers a preventable injury or death, it is a tragedy. When 80 people do, it leaves you in shock.

This is the situation faced by Londoners after the deadly fire in the 24-story Grenfell Tower on June 14. Though investigations are still under way, police officials claim that this fire – and the 80 lives it claimed – was entirely preventable. In the United States, home fire rates have declined for the past few decades, but civilian fire deaths have seen increases in recent years. The devastating fire at Grenfell Tower reminds us how important it is to keep our homes, and the loved ones we live with, safe from this risk.

Essential safety features

Fires can often be avoided, detected and stopped with the right preventative measures in place, but without them the risk of injury and death increases. According to survivor reports, Grenfell Tower lacked many basic safety devices, including functioning sprinklers and smoke alarms, which can cut your risk of death in half.

The U.S. has required these safety features in newly-built high-rises for years, but the vast majority of the country does not require sprinkler systems in newly built one- and two-family homes. Without these features, individuals and families in the U.S. are still at risk.

Fixing hazards

Just as important as having safety features is inspecting them, often and thoroughly, and monitoring for hazards. Survivors from Grenfell Tower claim they spent years notifying management of fire risks in the tower, including faulty wiring and new gas pipes. Residents even formed an online group and posted about these risks over six months before the fire.

If you are a renter and your building lacks fire safety features such as smoke alarms or has obvious fire hazards, always alert the management. However, if the issues aren't resolved, contact your state or local fire marshal for next steps. The longer hazards are left unchecked, the greater the chance for a fire.

What you can do

To prevent a fire in your home, you must be proactive about fire safety. Test your smoke alarms regularly, check the expiration dates on fire extinguishers and create an escape plan with your family so that everyone knows what to do in the event of a fire.

Communities can make a difference, as well. In Dallas, firefighters and volunteers worked together to install 34,000 home smoke alarms in neighborhoods with high incidences of fires. Ten years later, home fire injuries and deaths in the neighborhood had dropped by 74%.

This side of the pond cannot afford to be complacent. The NSC State of Safety report says no U.S. state is "On Track" for fire safety, so there is clearly work to be done. Don't let an incident that is so preventable lead to devastation for you and your loved ones.

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