Tragic London Apartment Fire Highlights Importance of a Maintained Fire Alarm System

Tragic London Apartment Fire Highlights Importance of a Maintained Fire Alarm System

Tragic London Apartment Fire Highlights Importance of a Maintained Fire Alarm System

A fire that ripped through a London high-rise building has left authorities fearing nearly 80 people dead (those missing are as of June 19th, presumed dead). Apartment fires are tragically not uncommon, but the total devastation of the 24-storey tower could have been reduced, if the building had been equipped with a proper fire alarm system.

“I looked through the spy hole and I could see smoke everywhere and the neighbours are all there. There’s a fireman shouting ‘get down the stairs,'” block residents, Michael Paramasivan, said to BBC Radio. “It was an inferno.”

Confusion and conflicting advice inhibited the evacuation, as some residents were told earlier not to leave their units in the event of a fire. Survivors relied on personal calls from neighbours urging them to flee the building. After the incident, London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan said, “We can’t have…a situation where people’s safety is put at risk because of bad advice being given or if it is the case, as has been alleged, of tower blocks not being properly serviced or maintained.” The building had no fire alarms.

Building residents had allegedly complained for years to London City Council about the building’s safety, but the concerns were not taken seriously. A fire alarm system is the first line defence against a blaze, warning residents when smoke or excessive heat is detected. This triggers a loud alarm throughout the building, urging residents to evacuate. In addition, a monitoring system installed in conjunction with the fire alarm system can automatically alert emergency services in the triggering of an alarm event. 

Without this, the fire can spread while residents may remain completely unaware until smoke and excessive heat reaches their individual units. This would severely limit the chances of a safe evacuation, and delays the response of emergency services.

In the majority of Metro Vancouver Cities and Municipalities, sprinkler and fire alarm systems are mandated for new buildings (and in some cases, when a building undergoes major renovations or upgrades). Both the BC Building Code and BC Fire Code are very progressive with this legislation overseeing Fire and Life Safety.  Some municipalities and cities have gone as far as to introduce their own bylaws mandating upgrades.

At Community Fire Prevention, we ensure the buildings we service have up to date annual fire inspections which include testing, identifying, and repairing any deficiencies to the fire and life safety systems. Our expert technicians perform annual testing and maintenance of sprinkler systems, fire alarms, fire extinguishers, emergency lighting, and more.  Together, these components all help to ensure the ongoing safety of residents or employees in the event of a fire. 

Community Fire Prevention believes in educating customers on current code requirements and is capable of installing, upgrading or repairing all major fire protection systems found in use today. In addition to the lack of a proper fire alarm system, the London building was said to have blocked emergency access and untested fire equipment. There was only one stairwell in the centre of the building. Modern buildings are designed with multiple paths of egress, to give residents access to multiple escape routes. This tragic incident is an example of the importance of keeping exit routes unobstructed, and fire and life safety systems properly maintained.