Re: Fire Safety Regulations: Good or Bad?

From: Technotranscendence (
Date: Wed Jul 04 2001 - 11:18:55 MDT

On Wednesday, July 04, 2001 5:57 AM Mike Lorrey wrote:
[Michael Lorrey quoting "Fire Safety Regulation in Northeastern Santiago,
Chile" by
John M. Cobin at: ]
> > This paper extends my previous study of fire safety regulation in
> > Baltimore by presenting similar evidence from northeastern
> > Santiago. Like the dramatic increase in Baltimore through 1994,
> > structural fires per capita in northeastern Santiago have soared
> > 8.9 times since regulation began in 1929 despite
> > massive increases in building safety regulation.
> This is a faulty premise. Under fire safety regulations, imposed by
> goverment fiat or insurance requirements,

I think there's a big difference between the two -- between "government
fiat" and "insurance requirements." The latter is voluntary, the former

> one SHOULD expect an inrease
> in the number of fires per capita. Decreasing the incidence of fires is
> NOT the goal of fire safety regs. The purpose is to reduce the overall
> damage and death toll of each individual fire.

But Cobin does go over just this point in the third section of the essay
( when discussing Santiago's
building code: "The legislation was designed to establish compulsory
construction norms for minimum and maximum building height and the selection
of building materials, plus a means to retard the propagation of fires..."
This code was put into place in 1929, "after a disastrous earthquake struck
Talca [another Chilean city] in 1928..."

> Without fire safety regs, large dense cities frequently had a huge
> devastating fire every few years or decades. One fire would cause untold
> deaths and the loss of thousands of homes and businesses. Today, each
> individual fire that occurs is generally contained within its building
> or within a small part of a building due to the required use of fire
> retardant matnerials, and deaths would be minor due to required
> installation of fire safety equipment (like extinguishers, fire escapes,
> smoke alarms, and public education).

I would hazard to guess -- but confess ignorance here:) -- that, in the
past, most fires, too were small and contained. It wasn't like London
burned done once a decade. You make it sound as if it did.

What we would need to do is find out if government fire codes have had the
impact you believe they have.


Daniel Ust

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