Oliver Hum / Staff reporter

On December 30, 1903, in Chicago, Illinois, the tragic Iroquois Theater Fire took the lives of over 600 people. That fire was caused by a lack of basic safety precautions. Almost 120 years later, humans have still faced problems due to failing to follow basic safety protocols.  

Iroquois Theatre fire - Wikipedia
A picture of the Iroquois Theater the night of the fire

When the Iroquois Theater burned down, it showed how careless people were about safety and that when in a hurry, they can ignore even the most basic safety precautions. According to the Illinois library, “In a rush to get the theater open quickly…the theater management did not finish many basic fire precautions.” Many basic fire prevention devices that were not installed including a fire alarm, sprinklers, and the emergency smoke vents were shut.

After the fire, many laws were put in place as a response to the fire. These laws included mandatory outward-opening doors that are to be unlocked at all times, exit lights, automatic sprinklers, fire alarms, and flame-resistant scenery, props, and curtains.  

Although these laws are a great response to the fire, many fires similar to the Iroquois Theater Fire have happened since then.  

The Dhaka Garment Factory Collapse happened April 24, 2013. 8-story commercial building called The Rana Plaza, collapsed and caused over 1100 deaths and 2500 injuries. The building contained apartments, clothing factories, a bank, apartments, and many different shops.

Report on Bangladesh Building Collapse Finds Widespread Blame - The New  York Times
The aftermath of the garment factory collapse

The accident was caused by building owners ignoring warnings about large building cracks. After the cracks were inspected, building owner decided to allow workers to continue working.

The cracks in the building weren’t the only cause of the building collapse. The building was built over a filled-in pond which greatly compromised the structure of the plaza. There were 3 more floors that were built which was above the original permit for the building.

The 2020 Beirut Explosion happened on August 4, 2020. A large amount of ammonium nitrate located at the The Beirut city port exploded and caused over 200 deaths and 7500 injuries. The explosions was so large that it was felt by neighboring countries including Turkey, Syria, Israel, and Palestine.

The aftermath of the Beirut Explosion

Around 2700 tons of the ammonium nitrate was stored in a warehouse without proper safety measures in place. It was put there after it was confiscated from an abandoned ship called the MV Rhosus.

If the ammonium nitrate was cotained safely, the entire explosion could’ve been prevented. According to Andrea Sella, professor of chemistry at University College London, “over time it will absorb little bits of moisture and it eventually turns into an enormous rock,” what this does is it makes it more dangerous because if the fire reaches it, the explosion will be much larger.

By looking at different disasters such as the Beirut explosion, Dhaka garment factory explosion, and the Iroquois Theater Fire, it looks like humans still have a long way to go in terms of basic safety precautions. One can only wonder how long it will take in order to fully prevent accidents like these. 


Iroquois Theater Fire

Dhaka Garment Factory Collapse

Bangladesh factory collapse toll passes 1,000

Beirut Explosion

Beirut explosion: What we know so far


Report on Deadly Factory Collapse in Bangladesh Finds Widespread Blame