Fire Drills for Girls
About 12 of the large loft buildings in the city of New York have complied with the new law concerning the establishment of fire drills and the creation of proper exits for the employes, who in the majority of cases are either girls or women. This law, the result of the disastrous fire and accompanying slaughter in the factory of the Triangle Shirt Waste Company, must be complied with generally in all such buildings, even if fireproof. The Public Safety Committee recently conducted drills for employes in two factory buildings under the supervision of the Fire Hazard Bureau—an organization that has come into being since the Triangle Shirt Waist Co.’s fire, and each showed ample provisions for safe exit.
One was a 12-story loft building devoted to garment manufacturing It has two stairways and a fire escape at the rear. The drill was conducted on the ninth floor, the most “broken up” and, except for its being properly arranged, the most dangerous of all to the 800 employes in the building, there being 200 on that floor alone. The floor’s entire center is occupied by the machine workers, who are separated from each other by a space of a little over three feet. On one side is space for draping and fitting; on the other is the cutters’ table, and every inch of the available space is occupied. When the signal was given there was no confusion. Every girl at a machine got up, placed her chair on the machine in front ot her, and marched out to the right or left respectively. The drapers left their work and the cutters ran down from their platform to the fire escapes nearest them, as they were in the rear of the building. In 30 seconds the room was em tied, and in three minutes and five seconds there remained in the building not one of its 800 workers. In the second building, of the same type and the same number of stories—a clothing and fur factory—although on the fourth floor the workers had never been drilled, they went out quietly, the results were the same. One of the best exits was over the roof, where there are adjoining buildings of equal height. The workers on the three upper floors made their exit by the roof; the others reached the ground by the other exits; those going down by the fire escape entered the building again at the third floor and reached the street by the staircases. The type of fire escape prescribed by the law is that of ladders from the balconies— one which, while it is in strict accordance with the law, is not approved by the Public Safety Commission. which advocates the adoption of the horizontal exit as most satisfactory. It is being added wherever possible. On one of the buildings referred to above, that at 37-43 West Twentysixth street, an exit of this type is to be added. It will consist of an iron bridge connecting its fire escape to that of the building in the rear. By its means the workers in one factory can pass safely over to the other in case of danger. The fire escape which just satisfies the law is by no means so satisfactory as the above, if only for the reason that, its a rule, they are not strong enough to bear much weight, and no fire drills are tried on such as these. On the two buildings already mentioned—the location of the other being at Nos. 21-27 West Twenty-seventh street—the fire escapes are broad, with square, not slanting turns. If they are of the latter type time is lost in descending, Fire escapes that end in a closed court should never be approved. They form a regular cul de sac from which there is no escape. It may be added the fire escapes are never covered quite as quickly as the stairs. It has been found that the footing is not as secure. During the drill a man is placed at each floor to see that order is kept.