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Lessons from London

  • Our people in power have this habit of talking about what should and would be done only after a tragedy has occurred.

By Mohsin Abdullah

We are still shocked and gripped by sadness over the big fire in London which happened a few days ago.

I won't go into details as we all know the story already, except to say it was horrific.

A criminal investigation is on the way and the Grenfell Tower fire has become a political issue as well.

Questions are being asked every day, questions which needed to be answered now.

Many are baffled, to say the least, as to how such an inferno could have happened in a country known to have the highest safety standards.

Many are saying it should not have happened in the UK. But the grim reality is: it happened.

Which brings me to this chilling poser: what if such a big fire breaks out in our own highrise buildings here in Malaysia? Can we cope with such a disaster? Are we ready to act, and act fast?

We pray that such a tragedy would never happen. Still, it would be right for us to be vigilant.

We have many highrise buildings: condos and apartments and what not, high-end and not so high-end, luxury and ordinary And many more are being constructed.

We expect all safety measures to be in place on existing buildings, and that new buildings are built in accordance with the right safety specifications. We sincerely hope that's the case.

Then there are the government's low cost flats comprising at least 16 stories where elevator breakdown is the norm.

We pray the buildings are safe, checks carried out often, fire drills conducted regularly, all safety measures in place, in working order and fire exits free passages and not blocked.

And what about our firefighters? I dare say we have a bunch of brave and dedicated people to battle come what may.

This has been proven before.I remember, in the late 1970s when fire broke out at Campbell Shopping Complex in Kuala Lumpur. It stared at the podium before the fire shot up to engulf the tower block.I can't say for sure but I think it was a 20-storey tower.

The firefighters then did their job well. The equipment used was, well, good for its time.

Present day firefighers, as said earlier, are equally courageous. But are they rightly equipped and adequately trained? The authorities would surely say of course they are. And I won't argue with that.

Still, I need to ask if there are enough sophisticated equipment to go round.

The powers that be must ensure everything is in tip top conditions. By "everything" I mean "everything". Although I admit, we the rakyat must do our part, too.

Yet, I can't help but say our people in power have this habit of talking about what should and would be done only after a tragedy has occurred.

In reality, what we need is act before bad things happen, not the other way round.

Let's pray that we do not have our Grenfell Tower ever.

(Mohsin Abdullah is a freelancer who writes about this, that and everything else.)


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