Natural and Man-Made Disasters


What was the impact of the fire at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas?

The November 21, 1980, blaze, which killed 85 people and injured more than 600, led to a nationwide revision of local fire codes, giving the tragic event large-scale political significance. The MGM Grand Hotel had, in fact, passed fire inspections, but the building, which was then the world’s largest gambling casino, had been eight years in the making. Between the time it was designed (fire protection systems included) and the time it was built, the building no longer complied with the always-improving safety standard for high-rise buildings. A short circuit started the blaze, which sent thick black smoke through the air ducts and escape stairwells in the 21 floors of guest rooms. Since more people were harmed or killed by smoke inhalation than by the fire itself, the American public became aware of the danger of smoke—over and above that of fire.

The event was a catalyst for change: Prior to the November blaze, most communities had not required existing buildings to be retrofitted every time fire safety codes changed and improved. After the fire, many communities chose to require building owners to comply with current protection capabilities.


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