What lessons about high rise building safety – from sprinkler protection to exit stairways, and everything in between – did we learn in the 90 years between the 1911 Triangle Waist Company fire in New York City and the World Trade Center tragedy in 2001?
During today’s luncheon at the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Conference in Orlando, Robert Solomon, P.E., Division Manager of NFPA’s Building Fire Protection Division, shed new light on the Triangle fire, “one of history’s earliest episodes of a fire in a high-rise building,” he said. “The fear it struck into the hearts of citizens was profound and significant.”
One-hundred-forty-six people died that day, approximately 60 perished by jumping from the 9th floor of the building. “We see numerous fire hazards and other problems that proved deadly once the fire broke out,” said Robert. “These included flammable and combustible fuel load, lack of adequate exits, locked doors, crowded and cramped conditions, and lack of built-in fire protection measures like sprinklers.”
Change did occur in the aftermath of the Triangle fire. In the following video, produced by NFPA for the 100th anniversary of the tragedy in 2011, NFPA President Jim Shannon talks about the driving force of Frances Perkins, a social worker who witnessed the Triangle fire with her own eyes.
Read “What’s changed — and what hasn’t — in the 100 years since the Triangle Waist Co. fire” from the March/April 2011 issue of NFPA Journal®.
Robert then discussed the politics and planning that led to the construction of the World Trade Center complex in Lower Manhattan, a project that took seven years to complete. WTC 1 and 2 featured “framed tube” construction and were the first buildings in the world to utilize the concept of an express elevator system.
In 1993, a bombing at the World Trade Center forced the evacuation of both towers. An NFPA investigation focused on fire department response, building system performance, evacuation. Robert said that many lessons learned after that bombing had a direct positive impact on the events that would unfold at the site eight years later.
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, NFPA launched a widespread effort to strengthen codes and standards for first responder safety, the built environment, emergency preparedness, and more. Ten years later, those efforts continue — and they’re making America safer.
Read details in NFPA Journal’s special 10th anniversary report on 9/11, including a report on first responder safety and an interview with an NFPA investigator who recalls his work at Ground Zero.