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Codes: History of Emergency Egress — Rise and Demise of the Outside Fire Escape

Sept 2020 Codes

Image: Crosby-Fiske-Foster Hand Book of Fire Protection (1919)

  • COST

    Free and open to the public.

  • TYPE





    2 LU/HSW AIA credits available

8:00 AM to 8:30 AM: Advocacy News
Featured Speaker:
John Nunnari
, Executive Directors of AIA Massachusetts

John Nunnari provides a brief report on codes and regulatory activities including the status of pending legislation and Building Code / regulatory changes of interest to Owners, Architects, and Engineers.

8:30 AM to 10:00 AM: History of Emergency Egress: Rise and Demise of the Outside Fire Escape

Featured Speaker:
Sara E. Wermiel, PhD
, Affil. BSA

For this 8th session of the 2020 Codes Committee’s annual cycle of code presentations, we are pleased to welcome Sara Wermiel. She is an independent scholar, historic preservation consultant, and teacher.

This presentation traces the history of emergency egress in buildings in the U.S., from the roof scuttles and mobile “fire escapes” of the early nineteenth century, to the dawn of modern egress regulation in the early twentieth century. Through this period, fire safety professionals paid little attention to emergency egress, focusing instead on measures to make buildings incombustible, in the mistaken belief that a fire-safe building would mean safety for occupants.

Such emergency egress measures as were introduced in buildings were the result of government regulation: through factory worker safety laws, tenement house laws, and building codes. By the late nineteenth century, the outside fire escape became the most common means of emergency egress. The presentation will cover the history of the regulations and kinds of devices used as fire escapes, and it concludes at the point when the fire protection community at last turned its attention to safety to life.

10:00 AM to 10:30 AM HRC News
Jack Glassman AIA, Chair, BSA Historic Resources Committee

As a complement to the discussion our speaker will provide a PDF of the presentation, on request. Click here for access to past Codes Committee documents.