Here are some sites that I found interesting while researching my talk on The History of Fire Escapes. If you noticed any factual errors in the talk, feel free to drop me a line at email@example.com or @whereistanya on twitter.
Slides are linked at the bottom of the page.
If you live in NYC, go get a free smoke alarm. The Red Cross will even come install it for you.
First and most important, Fire Escapes in Urban America: History and Preservation", a thesis presented by Elizabeth Mary André
“It has long been recognized that the common outside form of iron ladder-like stairway anchored to the side of the building is a pitiful delusion. This device for a quarter of a century has contributed the principal element of tragedy to all fires where panic resulted. Passing successively the window openings of each floor, tongues of flame issuing from the window of any one floor cut off the descent of all on floors above it. Iron is quickly heated and is a good conductor of heat, and expansion of the bolts, stays and fastenings soon pulls the framework loose, so that the weight of a single body may precipitate it into the street or alley. Many a human being has grasped the hot rail of such a “fire escape” only to release it with a scream and leap from it in agony. Its platforms are usually pitifully small, and a rush to them from several floors at once jams and chokes them hopelessly. It is a makeshift creation of the cupidity of landlords, frequently rendered still more useless by the ignorance of tenants, covered up with milk bottles, ice boxes and other obstructions.” quote from the NFPA April 1911 Quarterly
"Firewall in all buildings seen as only safeguard", New York Times 1923 (Requires subscription)
The facade was within the realm of architecture and the fire escape in the realm of the law” A History of Housing in New York City, By Richard Plunz (Google Books)
New York City’s Fire Deaths Reach Lowest Point in Over 100 Years (New York Times) (Requires Subscription)
“If a skillful man, with a deadly hatred of his race in his heart, sat down to plan a human residence in which to entrap and destroy those who should dwell in it, it is extremely probable that if he had seen these houses in West Forty-fifth-street he would take them as a model. “. Quote from DESTRUCTIVE FIRES.; FOUR TENEMENT HOUSES DESTROYED. (New York Times March 1860) (Subscription required)
Article by Mary Alden Hopkins published April 1911 McClure's Magazine" Volume 36, Number 6 (This is a great article; I recommend it)
"In Newark, Wresting a Fatal Factory Fire From Oblivion (New York Times, 2011) (Subscription required)
"After the fire, the owners of Triangle Shirtwaist factory, Harris and Blanck, were brought to court on charges of manslaughter but were eventually acquitted. They were fined $75 for each life lost. However their insurance policy paid them a total of $60,000, at the rate of $400 per life lost, so they actually profited from the tragedy. After two years, they continued to lock the doors to exits and were fined for several safety code violations." Quote from New York City (NYC) Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire - 1911 (baruch.cuny.edu)
"This city may have a fire as deadly as the one in Newark at any time.". Quote from The 1911 Triangle Factory Fire: Warnings (cornell.edu)
Front page of the March 26, 1911 NYT (Requires subscription)
Not mentioned in the talk, but worth knowing about.
Therac-25 bug. (New York Times)
London Ambulance Dispatch Failure (The Independent)
(The older version of the slides, from SRECon US and DevOps Days NY, is at https://www.slideshare.net/TanyaReilly/the-history-of-fire-escapes)