The Chicago Tribune reported an update today essentially reminding us that the status quo thrives; the forces of life safety battle on against the forces of accountancy. Does this debate ultimately boil down to an actuarial end-game of what a “statistical” life is worth? Perhaps, provided of course it’s not your own life or the life of someone that transcends the value of money to you.
Wouldn’t objectivity (and good sense) demand that all stakeholders have as thorough an understanding of fire dynamics as economics before betting people’s lives on it? Putting it another way, if you live in a pre-1975 high rise in Chicago your fate (and that of all your neighbors) is in the hands of others. Manual firefighting and rescue in a high rise structure is among the most challenging scenarios fire departments face. To imagine it like TV or Hollywood is to be gravely naive.
In the end, fire is a natural phenomenon that does not discriminate. Ignoring the dangers involved in high rise living without fire sprinklers has two effects: increased risk combined with decreased control over your own fate. Intentionally avoiding retrofit on an economic basis only switches the currency with which you may pay.