HOUSTON — The Houston Fire Department addressed questions surrounding the London high-rise apartment fire that left six people dead Wednesday morning. During a press conference, the fire chief emphasized the importance of knowing escape plans when living or working in a high-rise building.
Massive fire tore through a 24-story apartment building in west in west London claimed a number of lives, fire officials confirmed, as rescuers frantically worked to reach people believed to be still trapped.
Witnesses described people leaping from Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, and of trapped children banging on windows as the blaze took hold at around 1 a.m local time.
A website run by the “Grenfell Action Group” said residents of the tower had expressed concerns over the safety of the building, specifically pointing to fire risks. Fire chiefs said it was too early to speculate on the cause of the blaze.
"Our hearts and our prayers go out to the people of London," Pena said.
Pena views London's towering inferno as both a tragedy and a teaching opportunity.
The chief said high-rise building fires are the most challenging for fire departments worldwide because they require different logistics, more firefighters and a plan.
"If we're going to evacuate, we're going to evacuate the fire floor, the floor immediately above and the floor immediately below the fire," Pena said. "The recommendation is that other floors, unless you are affected by smoke, you remain in place and await further instructions.
The first responders will determine what other floors need to be evacuate if necessary.
The Houston Fire Department has its plan, but everyday people need one, too!
"If you live in a high-rise or work in a high-rise building, be familiar with the occupancy," Pena said. "Be familiar with the life-safety systems [and] know where the means of egress are. Know what your responsibility is in case of an emergency."
Did you get that? Four simple safety tips could mean the difference between life and death in case you're involved in a high-rise fire.
The fire code require all high-rise buildings to have a warning system.
Pena strongly advises Houston residents to learn it. He said residents should also know how and when to evacuate, and where safe places are. Knowing where all the building exits and stairwells are ahead of time can also save a life.
"Once the incident happens, if you're woken [up] in the middle of the night with alarm system going off and a voice telling you to evacuate, that's not the time to start learning the layout of your building."