Why Fire Escapes Were Invented and Put on the Outsides of Buildings

You’ll notice many buildings with fire escapes when walking or driving through any major metropolitan area. These metal structures are attached to the outside of residential, industrial and commercial structures to provide occupants with a reliable means for evacuating in the event of an emergency.

It’s hard to believe that 150 years ago, buildings didn’t have fire escapes. So why did people install fire escapes in San Francisco, CA and other large cities throughout the country? Read on to find out!

The invention of the fire escape

The first fire escape came to fruition across the pond in the late 18th Century. Daniel Maseres, an English inventor, developed a device he actually called a fire escape. His contraption fastened to a window and allowed people inside to descend to the street safely.

Here in the United States, Anne Connelly of Philadelphia filed a patent for an exterior staircase in 1887. Prior to her patent, Americans in overcrowded urban centers began demanding fire escapes following two deadly fires in New York City tenement buildings. These fires claimed the lives of 30 people and made legislators across the country reconsider the laws in place to protect residents.

Fire escapes attached to the outside of buildings

If you’re wondering why fire escapes were invented and put on the outside of buildings in San Francisco, CA and other large urban areas, the answer is pretty simple. When a fire or other emergency begins inside a building, you want people to be able to get out of the structure as quickly as possible. With fire escapes attached to the outside of buildings, it’s safer for individuals to escape the dangers taking place inside.

Before Connelly filed her patent, local city governments revised their codes to begin mandating “fire-safe” egresses provided on the exterior of buildings. This meant building managers and owners were required to update their existing structures. Any new buildings constructed in these communities had to include exterior fire escapes.

Unfortunately, many business owners sought ways to work around these laws. They either installed cheap, poorly-constructed fire escapes to appease inspectors, or they simply paid off those officials who would fine them for not providing a safe method for evacuating their buildings.

Modern fire escapes

Looking back at how cities developed over the last few centuries, it’s obvious why people installed fire escapes in San Francisco, CA and other bustling urban communities. Safety was not the top priority when constructing tenement buildings, factories and other structures in the 19th century. Packed with too many people using candles for lights and fires to stay warm, these buildings were tinderboxes just waiting for a single spark to set everything ablaze.

Today, legislatures have closed the loopholes business owners and building managers could use to sidestep city codes about fire escapes. Manufacturers fabricate fire escapes from galvanized steel and other metals before they’re attached to structures throughout the Bay Area and beyond. Additionally, manufacturers construct these devices to provide slip-free ways for people to get out of a building on fire. If you need fire escape maintenance or inspection for your facility, contact Great Escape Fire Escape Service today.

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