Staggered that parts of the Trump Tower has no sprinkler system

Photo Source: Craig Ruttle, AP

I read with disbelief that the fire in Trump Tower on Saturday was not extinguished automatically by a sprinkler system. The reason.. it was never fitted.

A fire at the 50th level creates all sorts of risk for the occupants and fire fighters.  I understand in this fire that 4-6 Fire Department New York (FDNY) firefighters were hospitalised.

I understand Trump Towers commenced construction in 1979, however were not completed until 1983, years before the mandatory regulation of sprinkler systems. I recall that back in the 1970’s the T&G Building,  one of the first high rise buildings in Brisbane (Corner of Queen and Albert Streets from memory) was being erected. Even though at that time it was retail (lower level[s]) and offices above it was sprinklered. During the construction phase the sprinkler systems were charged but were not fully activated.

At this point in the construction a fire broke out caused by carelessly discarded rags left by French polishers who were treating the polished wooden wall panels, in, if my memory serves me correctly, what was to be the board room of T&G Insurance. The sprinkler head above was triggered and there was enough water in the charged pipes to extinguish the fire even though it was not under mains pressure or even connected to the town supply. This demonstrated to me as a young man, the power and importance of sprinklers in high rise buildings.

When I look at New York’s Manhattan Island and consider the number of high rise buildings, their proximity to one another, the fact that so many are now apartment buildings I am staggered that it was not compulsory for Trump Tower to be sprinklered. As a student of insurance history I am also well aware of the terrible Triangle Shirtwaist Factory less than 3 miles from Trump Tower where a fire on March 25, 1911, killed 146 people in an unsprinklered building only 4 or 5 storeys high.

As I write this I also think of the Grenfell Tower in London which again was not sprinklered a point that did not hit me at the time.

When will building owners and local authorities get it! I doubt in this case, there will be an order slapped on the building to retro fit sprinklers which is just what should happen.


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