• Tara Gearhart

Pennsylvania Fire Safety History

The damage that fire causes on property and peoples’ lives are immense. However, today we do not witness the same destruction of fire that we did 100 years ago. Imagine whole sections of towns and cities being burned to the ground by uncontained fire. In 1845, a woman in Pittsburgh, made a fire to heat water for her laundry. While left unattended, it sparked a building nearby. A few hours later, one third of Pittsburgh was destroyed. In the infamous, Great Chicago Fire of 1871, 300 people died and over 100,000 homes and businesses were destroyed. Ironically, the less famous Peshtigo, Wisconsin fire which started just hours before the Great Chicago Fire, killed over 1200 people and left the entire towns in ruins. Across America, cities and states began implementing building and fire codes.

In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Fire and Panic Act of 1927 was established “To provide for the safety of persons employed, housed, or assembled...by requiring certain construction and ways of egress, equipment, and maintenance.” The requirements fall under the justification of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

Over the next few decades, huge technological advancements occurred in fire security. Fire alarms were developed to provide the following solutions for containing fires:

Notify the Fire Department - Telegraph alarms, such as the Gamewell Telegraph Alarms were popular in the early 1900’s

  • Notify Occupants – Early on, a bell tower was the typical form of notification. Later, manual alarms and pull stations were installed to manually alert others

  • Quick Detection of Fire - Ionization smoke detectors became available in the U.S. in the early 1950’s for commercial and industrial use. The photoelectric smoke detectors, more commonly used now, was invented in the 1970’s.

With these changes in technology, the Act of 1927 was amended and redefined. The amended Act is adapted to follow the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) Standard Life Safety Codes and International Code Council (ICC) Codes and is codified in Title 34 Chapter 50 of the Pennsylvania Code.

Although building code and enforcement can be overwhelming, just remember before they existed.


Ease your mind. Call DirecTec to ensure your building is fire safe.

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