Re: Fire Safety Regulations: Good or Bad?

From: Mike Lorrey (
Date: Wed Jul 04 2001 - 11:19:53 MDT

Technotranscendence wrote:
> 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
> mandatory.

Yes, but the difference is irrelevant to this particular debate.

> > 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..."

Yes, but the fact that he bases his initial premise so faultily condemns
the whole exercise.

> > 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.

Perhaps not the whole city, but large chunks of it did, in fact. Tell
me: how many wooden structures remain in London proper that are more
than 250 years old? Very few. How about Chicago? Very few.

A proper study would chart out the percent of individual cities killed,
injured, and left homeless from fire every year before and after the
institution of fire codes in those cities.

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

Groups like the ICBO, BOCA, etc. have done numerous studies in the past
on this subject illustrating just my point.

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