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Describe the history of building construction changes in the context of fire safety and prevention. What are examples of major c - Research Paper Example

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Major Historical Fires in the United States and Their Effect on Building Codes It is an unfortunate reality of life that many people believe so firmly in the common axiom “if it ain't broke don't fix it”. While this may seem like a generally good behavior, this often means that changes in the status quo are only put in place in response to a major tragedy…
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Describe the history of building construction changes in the context of fire safety and prevention. What are examples of major c
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Download file to see previous pages It is important that the fire safety professionals and the fire fighters of today continue to look back on these horrifying tragedies and remember what valuable lessons were learned from these fires, and also remember at what cost those lessons came. The deadliest fire in Chicago history occurred in the Iroquois theater, on December 30, 1903. The reportedly fireproof building had been open a mere five weeks before the scenery caught fire on a reflector. An attempt to bring down the fire safety door, a stage curtain made of asbestos, failed, and the panicked cast fled out the back. The draft from the stage door caused an explosion of flames on the stage that immediately combusted much of the seating area. In the ensuing rush to the exits, 602 people were killed, many of them from being crushed against locked exit doors or exit doors that opened to the inside of the theater (Eastland Memorial Society, n.d.) As a result of the theater fire, Chicago mayor Harrison closed over one hundred and seventy theaters, dance halls, churches, and other large gathering spaces for re-inspection for compliance with building codes. Many of the fire codes had been ignored in the construction of the Iroquois Theater due to bribes given to local governmental officials. Mayor Harrison was determined that this practice would not be allowed to continue. New laws and codes were passed that required marked fire exits, clear exit paths, and doors that opened outward instead of into the line of travel. Additionally, any new theaters had to be equipped with a steel fire curtain for the stage to prevent failure of the type that occurred with the asbestos curtain at the Iroquois Theater (Eastland Memorial Society, n.d.) Another Chicago tragedy was the school fire at Our Lady of Angels on December 1, 1958. The building had a brick exterior and completely wooden interior, and a roof that had been waxed with petroleum-based products. The building had only one fire exit, which to be reached required traveling through the main corridor, negating its purpose. The fire alarms were mounted deliberately out of reach of the children in the building to prevent mischief and, regardless, were not designed to alert the fire department when activated. The fire started in the basement dumpster, allegedly by a ten year old student at the school, then ignited a nearby staircase. The combustion of the stairwell released gases, heat, smoke, and flames onto the second floor, as the second floor exit to the stairwells lacked a fire door, unlike the first floor exits to the same staircases. Many of the children were killed by jumping or falling out the second-story windows after the center corridor filled with flames and the escape route was blocked. The final death toll was ninety-two children and three teaching nuns (Morgan, n.d.). Disturbingly, the building had passed a fire safety inspection just a few weeks before the incident. It had met all fire codes at the time of its construction, and Chicago fire code did not require that existing structures retrofit equipment to meet newer standards. As a result of the disaster, fire codes affecting schools were changed across the country to make schools safer, including such reforms as exterior fire escapes and fire alarms that rang in local fire departments (Morgan, 2001). Another ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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