A Prospect Heights fire left 96 people homeless. The building had no fire sprinklers or fire resistant design, according to the fire chief.
High-rise buildings present unique challenges when it comes to the area of fire safety. In most buildings, those inside will only need to travel down a flight or two of stairs to get to safety, if they have to travel down any flights of stairs at all. In a high-rise building, however, people might need to travel down several flights of stairs to get to ground level and out the door.
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Even so, there are many misconceptions about high-rise building safety that, once disproven, will make the issue much more clear. Here are six fire safety tips for those living and working in high-rise buildings.
1. Stairways Stay Safe
The first misconception when it comes to high-rise building safety is that even the stairways will be dangerous during a fire. In reality, high-rise buildings are designed to be as fire resistant as possible, and this especially extends to the buildings’ stairways. Most high-rise fires end up becoming contained to one specific apartment or floor while the stairways remain unaffected. As a result, an individual’s top priority when faced with a high-rise fire is to seek the nearest stairway immediately.
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2. Be Sure to Call 911
One common mistake that people make in cases of high-rise fires is assuming that someone else has already called 911. It’s far better to assume that someone has already called and then call anyway than to assume someone has called when they actually haven’t.
This way, you can potentially prevent the spread of the fire and even help others who might be trapped. If you’re calling on a cell phone, you can even call while making your way to safety.
3. Don’t Panic
Your first instinct will likely be to leave immediately. While this is understandable, it isn’t always the safest thing to do. If you know that a fire is burning and are about to leave your apartment, feel the door with the back of your hand. If your door feels warm or hot to the touch within five seconds, this indicates a dangerous fire condition in your corridor. You’ll want to get a wet towel and seal the cracks in the door where the smoke is entering into your apartment and inform the authorities of the situation as well as where you’re located. Try to breathe normally and stay calm; staying calm during an emergency can save your life and the lives of those around you.
4. Move Quickly but Safely
Natural human instinct will make you want to run out of your apartment as soon as possible, but there are certain steps you should take before leaving. If your apartment door is not warm or hot to the touch, it’s safe for you to crack open the door and check for the presence of smoke in your corridor. If the corridor is safe, you should alert everyone on the rest of your floor of the presence of the fire. You should close your apartment door without locking it and then carefully make your way to the nearest stairway. Under no circumstances should you use the elevators.
5. Know Your Building
No two high-rise buildings are alike. It’s important that you learn the layout and fire safety plan in your building before you find yourself in a dangerous situation. There will most likely be fire hose adapters and fittings located somewhere within your building as well as fire extinguishers, exits, and stairways.
Knowing your building can be the difference between life and death. Maps and other information should be available in all high-rise buildings, and this will give you the opportunity to study the layout of your building so that you’ll be better prepared should a fire safety issue arise in the future.
6. Stay Fire Safe
The key to fire safety is having a proper contingency plan, being prepared, and having the ability to stay calm even in a stressful situation. No one is ever expecting a high-rise fire, but there are things that you can do to ensure that you are as prepared as possible for one. This way, you can notify the authorities, alert others in your high-rise building about the fire, and get to safety.
If you take the necessary steps toward preparing for the possibility of a high-rise building fire, you will be that much more able to respond appropriately should the situation ever occur. Being prepared and vigilant are the keys to fire safety.
Alfonso Gonzalez is a freelance writer based in Malibu, California. He spent 25 years in the construction industry, working roofing, plumbing, electrical, and more before retiring. In his free time, he likes to work on home repair projects.
Before we get into our story today - a very happy New Years to you! We hope that 2018 brings your joy, success, and satisfaction.
Wisconsin -- The Attorney General, Brad Schimel, said that the state cannot enforce a rule that was established in 2008 that required fire sprinklers be added to all new apartment buildings with three to twenty units.
The rule was established by the Department of Safety and Professional Services, and Schimel said that the rule goes beyond their authority.
"There is little question that the (opinion) will have a substantial impact on other rules and regulations involving the construction of new buildings and the state's building code, in general. However, the analysis below is unavoidable," wrote Schimel.
Madison, Wisconsin's Fire Chief and legislative liaison for the Wisconsin State Fire Chief's Association has called this ruling "extreme." Amy Acton, Executive Director of the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors says that dropping this rule is going to put lives at risk.
In 2008, the state sprinkler rule went into effect for 3-20 unit buildings built after January 1, 2011. The Wisconsin Builders Association challenged the rule. The state Court of Appeals determined the agency had the authority to set the rule because they had a broader authority at the time.
Brad Boycks, the Wisconsin Builders Association Executive Director said that he opposes the sprinkler rule because it drives up the cost of constructing apartment complexes.
What is your opinion?
What matters more? The cost of construction increasing or the possible loss of lives? Comment below.
When it comes to apartment and condo living, there are a lot of things to consider. The pros and cons can be long lists, depending on what a person likes and what might bother them. But one of the biggest issues that some people overlook when deciding whether to live in a condo or an apartment is safety. A large part of that safety is the potential risk of fire, because getting out of a large complex is far different than fleeing a burning home. That's why sprinkler systems are such valuable keys to safety for anyone who lives in a condo or an apartment building.
What Do Fire Sprinklers Offer?
A fire sprinkler system can offer people who live in apartments or condos, whether they rent or buy, two very important things: Increased safety in the case of a fire, and peace of mind.
But not all complexes have fire protection at this level. When there are small apartment buildings that only have a few units, fire suppression through a sprinkler system may not technically be required. Older buildings may also be “grandfathered in,” and not required to have these systems installed. Current code in most locations calls for fire sprinkler systems on larger, newer apartments and condos, though—and it's a good standard to have when looking for places to live, regardless of a place's age.
It depends on the size of the building, its age, and the state, city, or county codes where that building is being constructed. While not always required, though, fire sprinkler systems can definitely make a big difference when it comes to how well a building and its occupants survive a fire. These systems can also go a long way toward protecting people's belongings and lowering insurance rates for the buildings' owners as well.
How Do These Systems Work?
Fire sprinkler systems are installed in the ceilings of buildings, and the sprinkler heads protrude through the ceiling a few inches. They are out of the way and unobtrusive, but they are also strategically placed where they will do the most good and provide the most coverage during a fire. This is to help save lives, but also in an effort to save the building if a fire should break out. Most of these systems are set up to detect heat, so the sprinklers automatically go off if they are triggered.
This can be a problem if the sprinkler heads or other sensitive equipment is not placed correctly, because too much heat from a stove or other appliance could potentially trigger a fire alarm. That's something that engineers and installers work to avoid when they put a fire sprinkler system into a building. It helps reduce the chances that there will be false alarms that can cause a lot of water damage even when there was no fire to put out.
What to Look for Before Signing the Lease or Buying a Unit
When moving into an apartment or condo, potential renters or owners should look to see if there are fire sprinkler systems in place. Asking about these systems is also important, because some are more obvious than others. Additionally, some buildings may have fire suppression in place in common areas but not in individual units, and some may have a mix of older and newer buildings in the complex. It's important to ask about this issue, because there is a difference between having adequate fire sprinklers and only having the bare minimum needed, or none at all in the case of a smaller or older building.
Not Real. ⇩ ⇩ ⇩
Among the best things that buyers and renters alike can do is to work with a good real estate agent when they are looking for a new place to live. This can help them find the apartment or condo they really want and need, and can also keep them more mindful about any issues that are going to be important to their safety, such as fire sprinkler systems (or a lack thereof) in each place they view.
Gary Ashton is the CEO and owner of The Ashton Real Estate Group of RE/MAX Advantage. His real estate team is #1 in Tennessee, Nashville and now #4 in the world.
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Property managers are tasked with taking care of an enormous range of responsibilities. You need to be people-oriented, taking care of your residents. You need to stay on top of regulations. You need to be superbly organized, ensuring that units are in move-in condition and maintenance personnel are readily available in case a unit needs fixed. In short, property managers have a lot of pressure to be on top of a wide range of subjects. I have compiled a list of the best property manager blogs around.
Appfolio posts blogs a few times a week on topics such as, leasing processes, renovations, networking events for property managers, growing your team, and much much more. The topics are timely and relevant. I, personally, have managed my own properties before, and I found this blog bingeable.
This blog is in the form of a community forum. Owners, property managers, and investors share their experiences, advice, and tips for renting a multi-unit property. They share underserved markets, marketing, and controversies in the market.
This blog, updated weekly, has some interesting articles that will get you thinking. Recent blog posts were on the topics of what to do if you suspect a tenant is dealing drugs, what to do if your tenant goes to jail, and screening factors that SHOULD outweigh the credit score.
PMI gives great advice on branding your property community, renting to the aging community, technology in property management, and more. The topics are extremely useful with original topics (such as how an apartment added $2500 a week in revenue by adding a vending machine).
Let’s Talk is geared toward both landlords and property managers. This site has hundreds of articles on a variety of hot topics in property management – whether it be how to prep for a fall rental, how to attract long-term renters, or educating renters.
Property management can be a tough job. You are dealing with regulations, the human-touch with landlords and tenants, and property maintenance. However, these blogs can help you along in the ever-changing landscape of property management.
F.E. Moran provides HVAC for multi-unit and high-rise construction, F.E. Moran Mechanical Services provides HVAC maintenance for multi-unit and high-rise properties, and F.E. Moran Fire Protection Northern Illinois provides fire protection installation, inspection, testing, and maintenance for multi-unit and high-rise properties.
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Honolulu -- The Honolulu City Council has postponed needed actions to move a bill forward that would require fire sprinklers in older high-rise buildings. Recently, a 36-story high-rise fire killed three people in Honolulu. The high-rise did not have fire sprinklers.
Council members made the decision to wait for more information from the Honolulu Fire Department before making a decision. They did, however, hear from apartment owners on fixed budgets who said they would rather live with the risks than pay to retrofit fire sprinklers.
Councilwoman Kymberly Marcos Pine is concerned about the homeless population and the possibility that it could increase if homeowners can't afford to retrofit. "My concern is we have some of the highest homeless population per capita, and it's never a good thing if we have a government mandate on people. So how can we solve this problem that we all agree needs to be solved without hurting people?"
Right now, Honolulu has a law that fire sprinklers need to be installed in all buildings built after 1975. To approve the bill that would add fire sprinklers to newer builds, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell wants to find a way to make fire sprinklers more affordable to low-income homeowners.
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Writer: Sarah Block, Marketing Director at The Moran Group
On October 10, 1996, an electrical fire ignited at 30 Rockefeller Plaza at 4am, surprising an early morning television show taping and causing the cancellation of several shows.
At 3:59am, a civilian called 9-1-1 after seeing smoke billowing from a window on the fifth floor. Fire crews arrived, and came straight to the security station at the front desk. The arriving firefighters asked question after question, wondering where the fire was, how it started, what was the building layout. However, security crews had no idea that a fire had ignited in the building. No alarms went off. No one evacuated. No smoky tendrils drifted to the first floor.
The complex was made up of three buildings: one, a seventy-story structure; two, a sixteen-story structure; and three, an eleven-story structure. The buildings were solidly built with masonry exterior, concrete interior structure, and terra cotta tiles inside. The complex was classified as a mixed-occupancy with high-rise provisions, according to NFPA 101.
The fire started in the fifth floor electrical room, and moved through to five different electrical rooms. Because of the need for more and more electricity in a building with this type of unique need, the electrical cabling continued to be added and added without removing old cabling. It was squeezed tightly, leaving no clearance between cables or the I-beam. The burning cables burned through the electrical insulation and this caused a large flow of current to surge through to other electrical rooms, catching five different rooms on fire.
The fire took four hours to control due to several hindrances. Renovations were taking place during this fire and electricity was cut off to the fifth floor. This cut off the smoke and fire alarms on that floor as well. They never went off. The odd layout of the complex also made fighting this fire difficult. First responders reported that the building's security were little to no help with reporting the layout of the building. The smoke and multiple fires also led to a difficult fight.
Luckily, the building had very few people inside because of the hour. All occupants were able to evacuate safely.
NFPA and fire crews investigated this fire and found that the fire ignited and spread because of poor decisions. There was inadequate circuit protection, lack of adequate space for electrical conductors, unprotected vertical and horizontal penetrations, no fire sprinklers on upper floors (where fire occurred), lack of smoke detection in area of fire (turned off), confusing building layout, fire alarm failure, and multiple points of origin. If the electrical system was thought out more clearly, this fire wouldn't have started and it certainly wouldn't have caused five separate fires.
In the end, twelve firefighters were injured, five civilians were injured, and the property damage was in the millions from smoke, water, and electrical damage.
After a fire, the building owner's goal is to get occupants back into their building as fast as possible. A major television network was forced to relocate to New Jersey for a period of time while the building got the electricity back in order and renovated. In trying to do this quickly, cabling was run through holes made into fire barriers. If another fire were to occur, this would negate the barrier and allow the fire to spread. In addition, while the electricity was being fixed, unattended candles were being used, and stairways were propped open. It appears no lesson was learned.
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Written By: Sarah Block, Director of Marketing & Education
A property fire is devastating in many ways. When a fire sparks in a residential property, there is the potential for a loss of life, property, and insurmountable financial costs. In one event, a property owner and his property manager were hit with all three when a fire started in fifty-nine year old Harry Simpson's apartment and moved quickly. It destroyed the building, the neighboring building, and killed Simpson; Robert Thomas, 31; Bernice Suerez, 33; and Jermaine Allen, 37. Thomas' mother filed a lawsuit against the property owner, property manager, and the city of Schenectady. The lawsuit claims that all three parties were aware of dangerous and hazardous conditions of the building. That building also happened to be inspected the day before the fire. The inspector found that the only issue was an expired fire alarm system certification.
That is just one of many examples of property managers getting sued due to a fire in a residential building that they manage. Keep tenants safe and protect the property by truly understanding the property's residential population and become familiar with fire hazards and how to prevent them.
Common Residential Fire Hazards & Their Remedy
The most common causes of residential fire are cooking, smoking, heating, and electrical issues. Preventing fires first starts with ensuring the building is safe.
To prevent smoking-related fires, have a property rule that bans smoking in and around the building. While not everyone may comply, if the rule is in the tenant lease, it releases the guilt from the property if a smoking-related fire ignites. It will also attract tenants who do not smoke, so the odds of a smoking-related fire go down.
To prevent heating and electrical related fires, regularly inspect heating equipment and chimneys. Resolve any issues that come up in inspections.
As a property manager, it's important to know the city's fire and building codes. Generally, project managers can find those codes on the city website. If not there, the local building department will have a copy of the codes. It is to a property manager and tenant's benefit to be vigilant about keeping up with codes. Property managers will save on code citations and keep the property and tenants safe.
To conduct a fire and safety inspection, follow this checklist.
Make sure every unit and common area has working fire and smoke alarms in all required areas.
Look for flammable materials near heaters.
Look for faulty wiring.
Check clothes dryer vents for lint build up.
Inspect heating sources.
Make sure each unit's kitchen has a working fire extinguisher.
Inform tenants of important fire safety information.
Understand the Best Communication for Your Tenant Population
Tenants hold much of the responsibility when it comes to fire safety. To inform tenants of important fire safety information, project managers need to know who their tenant population is. Are they at a higher risk for fire-related injuries? Do they require a unique form of communication, so they fully understand the information?
According to the NFPA, the populations that are most likely to die in a fire are immigrants, older adults, young children, people with disabilities, and low-income families. Tom Lia, executive director of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board said, "Individuals in high-risk categories may have trouble comprehending a fire and may not be able to escape a fire on their own." Property Managers need to communicate the best way possible for their audience.
Immigrants and non-English speaking citizens might be difficult to communicate with because of a language barrier and fear of persecution. Property Managers will make better progress communicating with this population by approaching local organizations that work with immigrants and refugees. Property Managers can work with the organizations to plan a fire safety seminar in an environment their tenant feels safe with a language they understand.
Elderly populations are at a very high risk for dying in a fire. Every year, an average of 1,000 people over the age of 65 die in a fire. That number is three times higher in populations over eighty. Property Managers should conduct fire safety seminars in community centers or another social setting. If a property has a high elderly population, it should be equipped with all proper fire protection. Fire sprinklers are essential to contain a fire in case a resident is unable to escape unassisted.
Residents with physical, mental, or sensory disabilities are one of the greatest risk populations for fire. Property Managers should inform their residents where safety devices are located and help them understand an escape plan. Additionally, special fire protection equipment can be used. Smoke alarms with a vibrating pad and flashing lights could help people with sensory disabilities. An additional measure is a flashing fire alarm located outside the building; this could help inform neighbors to a fire.
Fire Safety Tips for Property Managers
Require tenants carry rental insurance.
Encourage tenants to report issues, even if it doesn't affect them.
Document everything. Take pictures before and after a tenant moves in/out. Document all rules in the lease.
Know fire and building codes; conduct inspections before a tenant moves in and document.
Ban indoor smoking
Inspect heating/chimneys and consider banning space heaters.
If you allow space heaters, make sure they are three feet from any combustibles and post safety tips.
Don't allow cords beneath rugs or carpets.
Inspect electrical wiring
Install and regularly test smoke/fire detectors
Prohibit cooking on balconies.
Post clear evacuation procedures.
Provide kitchen fire extinguishers
Property managers can protect their tenants, property, and themselves by making fire safety a priority. By clearly communicating fire safety rules and tips verbally and in writing, property managers have some control over the uncontrollable.