“On Dec. 1, 1958, a school fire in Chicago killed 92 children and three nuns who were teachers in the Our Lady of the Angels school. While the two-story brick building looked safe from the outside, the interior wood design with only one fire escape had no sprinklers, no automatic fire alarm, no smoke or heat detectors, no alarm connected to the fire department, no fire-resistant stairwells and no fire-safe doors from the stairwells to the second floor.
Other than that, it complied with a fire department safety inspection only weeks before the fire, because the school did not have to comply with all fire safety guidelines. Due to a grandfathering clause in the 1949 standards, existing schools were not required to retrofit the safety devices that were required in all newly constructed schools. In the only positive outcome of the tragedy, sweeping changes in school fire safety regulations were enacted nationwide, no doubt saving countless lives in subsequent years. [Read more…]