This year marks the 100th anniversary of Fire Prevention Week. The annual event, which runs October 9-15, is meant to educate everyone about actions that can be taken to keep themselves and those around them safe from home fires. First sponsored by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in 1922, the public observance became a national event in 1925 following President Calvin Coolidge’s proclamation. It is now the longest-running public health observance in the U.S.

The NFPA’s theme for 2022 is “Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape.”

“Whether due to a wildfire, lightning or other causes, a home fire can start quickly, with little time to safely escape,” says Angela Dickson, co-chair of the Window Safety Task Force and marketing and communications director for the Fenestration and Glazing Industry Alliance (FGIA). “The Window Safety Task Force encourages everyone to develop and test an escape plan at least twice a year. And remember, the plan should include accommodations for loved ones with special needs and for cherished pets.”

Fire Prevention Week is scheduled to begin October 9 in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which killed more than 300 people, left more than 100,000 homeless and destroyed more than 17,4000 structures. The three-day fire ushered in a new focus on strengthening fire and building codes, specifically on enacting more stringent regulations and safety inspections of fire protection systems and ensuring that most new construction contained more fire-resistant brick and stone.

Though the Great Fire of Chicago was the catalyst for revolutionizing building and fire codes, subsequent fires strengthened them. This includes fires in 1874 that led to the ban of all wooden construction in Chicago, the Iroquis Theater Fire of 1903, which led to the requirement of unlocked fire exit doors that opened outward, sprinkler systems and steel curtains to be used as fire walls, along with the LaSalle Hotel Fire of 1946, which led to new safety codes for high-rise buildings that required enclosed stairwells and elevator shafts.

Numerous building and fire codes have since been developed and updated regularly. The main codes are:

  • The International Building Code (IBC);
  • The International Fire Code (IFC);
  •  The International Existing Building Code; and
  • The National Fire Protection Association’s Life Safety Code, NFPA 101.

When it comes to addressing the use of fire-rated glazing codes, there are several standards to follow:

  • ASTM E119, which tests a product’s ability to qualify as a fire-resistance rated construction material;
  • NFPA 80, which governs the installation and maintenance of fire doors and fire windows; and
  • NFPA 252 and NFPA 257, which govern the testing of fire doors and fire windows, respectively.

Fire-rated glazing has come a long way since the days of traditional, polished wired glass. Reports of injuries and the push for more aesthetically pleasing fire-rated glazing prompted the need to find new solutions, such as intumescent glass, fire-rated ceramic glass and specially tempered glass.

Not all types of glass block smoke, fire and radiative heat collectively. For instance, wired glass, glass blocks and ceramic glass are considered fire-protective glass, which only blocks fire and smoke, while intumescent glass, which is considered fire-resistive rated glass, blocks all three and is the highest standard in rated glass.

Regardless of what materials are used, fire-rated glazing provides a period of protection against fire. The ability of glass to prevent the spread of fire throughout a building is one of its most crucial features, which makes it an important component in building safety.

Though the fires of the past have molded the way modern building and fire codes and fire-rated glazing are designed today, proper planning is still needed.

As the NFPA states, “Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape.”