Monday, December 1, 2008

Lesson Learned?

Today marks the 50 year anniversary of one of the more horrific large loss fires in US history. The Our Lady of Angels (OLA) School fire in Chicago killed 92 kids and 3 nuns.

Sadly this was one large loss fire, in addition to many before and after, that served as a catalyst for reform of building and safety codes around the nation. I say sadly because it seems to always take a fire event of horrific proportions to get people’s attention and garner outrage to initiate change in building and safety codes.

Today also makes me wonder if we really did learn our lesson from this tragedy. With all of the focus on security over the last several years, many schools have taken steps to secure their buildings with the thought of not allowing anyone in but perhaps not considering that maybe folks may need to get out. There is one school system, in particular, close to me that seem to have issues with chaining their doors shut on a relatively regular basis. Around the region, I have been in some schools over the last several years where I have come across means of egress that were blocked for a variety of reasons. I do speak up and most all of the school administrators make immediate corrections though I can tell one or two may be annoyed with me!

My hope is that we have learned our lessons from the past. However, we need to stay vigilant and not assume all schools are in tune with maintaining accessible and working exits. Otherwise, as the old saying goes, we are doomed to repeat history!

Below are some web sites and articles related to the fire that you might find interesting:

Official Website of the Our Lady of the Angels School Fire and OLA community
Our Lady of the Angels School - From Wikipedia
Lessons learned, scars remain from '58 Chicago school inferno
Mass honors, victims, heroes of Chicago school fire
50 Years of Grief – from Firegeezer blog
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  1. I believe that this is an excellent point that should be brought up on an annual basis and firefighters, fire officers, and chief officers should reflect on the past and each time we reflect on large loss fires such as this we should ensure that we learn something new.

    How many times do we end up in somebody's home or business, see a situation that is easily corrected if mentioned and we keep our mouth shut because we don't want to upset the general public. We don't say these thing because we are trying to be the "bad guy", we are doing it to aid the general public in fire safety. Our goal is public safety and the reduction of civilian fire fatalities.

    Every time we can offer our expertise to the public, you offer a higher level of survivability. That is what we are here for...

  2. I am not sure about any lessons learned, but what puzzles me in reading the book, why the person believed to be responsible was never prosecuted. This just seems too horrific to have let this person get away with mulitple murders. There doesn't seem to be any lessons learned in that respect.


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