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The Towering Inferno -- A Warning If Taken Might Have Saved Lives?

Updated on May 7, 2013

I haven’t watched The Towering Inferno for years, but as I watched it, I couldn’t help thinking of all the people that got trapped in the WorldTradeCenter towers after the terrorist attacks on 911. I saw a documentary on 911 on how the people trapped inside tried to get out. In the movie, Steve McQueen as the fireman in charge, says that after the seventh floor they have no effective way of fighting a fire and one of these days he believe they’ll be taking 10,000 people out of one of these high-rise death traps. The question is why do they keep building buildings so high that if some disaster strikes them there’s going to be no way people are going to be able to escape them with their lives.

It’s very eerie watching the movie and seeing how closely the situation of all these people trapped in this towering inferno is so similar to the people who were trapped in the WorldTradeCenter towers trying to escape before the building collapsed. It’s too bad the builders of these building didn’t take this movie as a wake-up call to what could happen if disaster strikes in one of these buildings. They’re so sure, just like William Holden was in the movie, that nothing is going to happen to their building. They never seem to consider what happens if something does.

In the movie, Holden was informed there was a fire several floors below, but he refused to ruin his party, arrogantly believing it would be put out before it could ever reach them. He refused to evacuate and because of that a large group of people got trapped on the top floor with no way to get out of the building. The firemen couldn’t reach them because both stairwells became damaged. The wind was too high to land a helicopter on the roof. And there wasn’t enough time to get everyone out by a chair lift they rigged up from the building across the way. When disaster strikes and you’re up that high, there’s no way out. You’re trapped in a glass tomb.

I can understand on one level that you can house a lot of people in one small area, and that’s why these glass monsters are built. On the other hand, why build a building so high you know that if disaster strikes the firemen won’t be able to have equipment to reach that high to effectively fight a fire. It not only puts the residents of the building in danger, but also the firefighters that have to do the impossible and try to rescue these people and try to put out the fire. When someone is building one of these glass giants they should take that into consideration when building it.

In the almost thirty years since this movie was made, I’m sure fire fighting equipment must have been developed that allows fire fighters to fight fires in building higher than seven stories high. But by no means has it been created to reach the top floor of one of these skyscrapers. So the question is since the builders of these skyscrapers won’t take into consideration they could be erecting a death trap, shouldn’t the government make laws on how tall a building should be allowed to be built? Shouldn’t the height be limited to how far up fire fighting equipment can reach to rescue people from the building if disaster should strike? If the government can pass a law forcing you to buckle your seatbelt, shouldn’t they do likewise in regards to how high a building can be safely built?

I’m sure there are laws currently in place that limits how high a building can be built, but does it go to how high the fire department has the equipment to reach? I think it’s pretty obvious that it doesn’t. It may all come down to the people who are erecting these skyscrapers who are no doubt well off. I imagine they use the same right for how high they be allowed to build their building as cell phone users are trying to with their right to text and talk while they’re driving.

After 911 happened I heard no talk about stopping building these skyscrapers that if disaster happens you won’t be able to evacuate before the building you’re trapped in kills you. Yes, it was the planes that flew in them that caused the disaster, but it was the buildings’ height that prevented a lot of people from getting out alive. The fire department wasn’t able to directly evacuate people in a safe and timely manner. A lot of firemen and policemen also died because they were trying to rescue people trapped in the building. That might not have been the case if the building was built at a more sensible height.

A lot of it also comes to cities wanting to have this impressive skyline with all these skyscrapers. It’s similar to people in San Francisco building these multi-million dollar homes on the side of a hill. Then when torrential rains come, their houses go sliding down the hill, because houses weren’t meant to be built on the side of a hill. It’s not structurally safe when it rains too much. It’s the same for these skyscrapers. Buildings weren’t meant to be built that tall. But will people stop building these building that become death traps for the people on the top floors when disaster strikes? No, just like people keep building homes on the side of a hill no matter how many times they go sliding down a hill and being smashed to bits. They concentrate on blaming the airplanes that smashed into the buildings as the reason so many people died, and not the fact that after the planes smashed into them the people couldn’t get out because they were trapped in the skyscraper with no way out.

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