Re: Fire Safety Regulations: Good or Bad?

From: Steve Davies (
Date: Wed Jul 04 2001 - 14:11:08 MDT

-----Original Message-----
From: Mike Lorrey <>
To: <>
Date: 04 July 2001 18:40
Subject: Re: Fire Safety Regulations: Good or Bad?

>Steve Davies wrote:
>> >
>> Mike Lorrey wrote
>> >
>> >> Without fire safety regs, large dense cities frequently had a huge
>> >> devastating fire every few years or decades. One fire would cause
>> >> 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
>> >> smoke alarms, and public education).
>> Daniel Unst replied
>> >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
>> >impact you believe they have.
>> When towns were built mainly of wood large fires were common (ie up to
>> 17th century). They became much less frequent as other materials were
>> widely used. However this didn't require government fire regulation
>> the same effect was achieved by insurers and by the use of restrictive
>> covenants in building leases which stipulated that materials such as
>> or stone be used in any construction. (The insurers also had their own
>> engine sevices, interestingly). So this was achieved by voluntary
>> as you say.
>However, there is far more to building codes than just fire prevention:
>earthquake, flood, hurricane, as well as simple accident prevention. The
>building and fire codes that your local governments institute are not
>conjured out of thin air. In fact, the original fire codes were, in
>fact, instituted by insurance company fire chiefs and building

That's what I said - the change in practice (which was indeed about more
than fire hazard) was produced by purely private action - the other key
groups are landlords and developers, hence the use of covenants long before
any code is adopted, local or otherwise.

 Today, non governmental groups like the ICBO (International
>Conference of Building Officials), BOCA, etc meet regularly to refine
>their codes, which are called 'model codes': they have no weight of law,
>but insurance companies rely on them, and most all state, county, and
>local governments base their own building and fire codes on these model
>codes, revising their own codes every 4-12 years as the groups issue new
>versions with changes that have been debated and voted on by the members
>from all over the country and the world.
>These codes are not instituted by fiat, they are not promulgated out of
>thin air. They are typically studied with detailed scientific
>experiments, with reports issued and significant peer review done before
>conclusions are drawn and proposed code changes are written based upon
>the newest research.
Indeed, in fact this happens much more widely. The commercial codes of most
states of the US have been largely drawn up this way, as I understant it.

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