Arizona residents may have heard about the tragic apartment blaze that killed three people in Honolulu on July 14. The building where the fire occurred was built before the city mandated that sprinklers be installed in high-rises. As a result of the inferno, safety advocates are now pushing for older towers in Hawaii and across the U.S. to be retrofitted with sprinklers in order to prevent a similar tragedy from happening in the future.
The July blaze was not the first fire to happen at Honolulu's Marco Polo building, a 36-floor apartment complex constructed in 1971. In 2013, another fire prompted the building's association to get an estimate for the installation of sprinklers and a new fire alarm system. An engineering firm determined that it would cost approximately $4.5 million, or around $8,000 per apartment, to install sprinklers throughout the building. The safety improvement plan was scrapped.
According to media reports, U.S. cities like Chicago, Dallas, New York and San Francisco still have many high-rises that were constructed before sprinklers were mandated. Some city governments have attempted to pass laws requiring that sprinklers be retroactively installed, but most of the measures have been abandoned due to complaints over the cost.
Apartment owners are required to make their properties as safe as possible for residents and visitors. Individuals who are injured because a building did not have sprinklers or another safety feature may be able to file a premises liability lawsuit seeking damages. If the lawsuit proves that a property owner's negligence caused the victim's injury, the victim may be awarded financial compensation for medical expenses and other losses.
Source: AP News, "Some urge sprinkler mandates across US after Honolulu fire", Caleb Jones, July 23, 2017