NEW YORK — At least 19 people, including nine children, were killed, and hospitals were desperately trying to save scores of others injured in a devastating fire in the Bronx over the weekend — once again shining a spotlight on fire safety and prevention. The fire is believed to have been caused by a space heater that set a mattress on fire, and a door that didn’t close properly may have allowed fire and smoke to spread throughout the building.
There are many steps that residents can take in the event of a fire to save both themselves and other residents. Below you’ll find some facts and tips regarding fires, smoke alarms, and high-rise safety.
Fire Alarm Safety tips:
* Replace smoke alarms every 10 years, and carbon monoxide detectors every 5-7 years.
* Install smoke and carbon monoxide alarms on every level of your home and in sleeping areas.
* To help minimize the risk of CO poisoning, have a licensed professional inspect heating systems and other fuel-burning appliances annually, and install CO alarms in your home.
* Never use ovens or stoves to heat your home. The result could be deadly.
* The only safe way to detect carbon monoxide in your home is with a working CO alarm.
* Make sure you install CO alarms at least 15 feet away from fuel-burning appliances to help prevent false alarms.
* Do not disable a smoke alarm in nuisance situations, and never “borrow” batteries for other uses.
* Develop and practice a fire escape plan with your family, so that everyone knows what to do when the alarm sounds.
ABC7NY and Kidde are partnering together again this year to get thousands of smoke alarms into local homes through “Operation 7: Save a Life.” If you can’t afford a smoke alarm, learn how to get one at no extra cost by contacting your local fire department. And join us January 29 at 7 p.m. for Operation 7: Save a Life.
FDNY Residential Building and High-Rise Safety
KNOW YOUR EXITS
There must be two means of egress (exits) from your apartment building. Your primary or first exit is your apartment door that leads into either an unenclosed (not separated by walls and doors) stairway or through a public hallway to an enclosed stairway that leads to the street.
Your secondary exit should be one of the following, depending upon the building’s date of construction that also leads directly or indirectly (through a yard) to the street level:
–an additional enclosed stairway accessible from the public hallway (newer buildings)
–an enclosed fire tower (stairway accessible from the public hallway)
–an outside fire-escape accessible from within your apartment through a window or door
An elevator is never an acceptable means of exit during a fire.
KEEP YOUR EXITS CLEAR AND WORKING
Properly maintained fire doors and exits will greatly reduce your chance of being killed or injured in a fire in your building.
–Maintain your apartment door or doors leading into the public hall or vestibule as fireproof and self-closing (tampering with the self-closing hinge or blocking the self-closing of such door is illegal)
–Make sure you apartment door lock can be opened from the inside with a thumb turn (without the use of a key)
–Maintain doors leading from the public hallway into the stairway or fire tower as fire proof and self-closing (again, tampering with the self-closing hinge or blocking the self-closing of such door is illegal)
–Keep stairways and outside fire escapes free of obstructions at all time. Do not store anything such as baby strollers, bicycles or rubbish on or under stairways or on stairway landings.
SECURITY VS. FIRE SAFETY
Window Security Gates: Some people install security bars or gates on their apartment windows to prevent intruders from entering their home. However, in the event of a fire, doing so may trap you and your family, as well as inhibit firefighter rescue.
If your apartment building has an outside fire escape, only New York City Fire Department approved security gates that open without the use of a key may be installed on the fire escape window. This requirement also applies to any secondary exit window on the grade level. Installation of an unapproved gate is strictly prohibited in NYC.
FDNY approved gates do not require the use of a tool, a key, or special effort to open. When purchasing a security gate be sure that it is stamped or labeled with the FDNY approval number.
After installing an approved security gate, make sure everyone in your home can operate the release devices. Remember to keep the fire escape window clear of all obstructions such as furniture, plants and air conditioners.
Child Safety Window Guards: The New York City Health Code requires owners of multiple dwellings to install child safety window guards when a child 10 years old or younger lives in the apartment. The window guards are small barriers installed to protect children from falling out of the windows.
However, to help ensure your safety during a fire, these guards must not be installed on your fire escape window.
KNOW YOUR WAY OUT
Owners of residential apartment buildings with three or more dwelling units are required by the NYC Fire Code to develop a Fire Safety Plan specific for their building. The plan must contain basic fire safety tips, and information about the building including the type of construction, the types of fire safety systems and the different ways of exiting the building in case of fire or evacuation.
The owner is required by law to:
–post the fire safety plan on the inside of every apartment front door
–post the fire safety plan in a conspicuous space in the common area
–distribute a copy to each dwelling unit in the building
–provide a copy to new tenants at the time of the lease
–re-distribute the fire safety plan annually during fire prevention week
The evacuation portion of your building’s fire safety plan will depend whether your building is fire proof or non-fireproof, and if the fire is in your apartment or some other portion of the building.
SHOULD YOU STAY OR SHOULD YOU GO?
If the fire IS IN your apartment, regardless of construction type:
–Get everyone out. Stay low as you go.
–Use your safest and most accessible exit.
—CLOSE ALL DOORS as you leave.
–If using an interior stairway, alert people on your floor by knocking on their doors on your way out.
–DO NOT USE THE ELEVATOR.
–Call 911 once you reach a safe location.
If you live in a NON- FIREPROOF BUILDING and there is a fire, it is usually better (safer) to leave the building immediately.
If you live in a FIREPROOF BUILDING and there is a fire, it is usually better (safer) to:
–Stay inside rather than entering smoke-filled hallways.
If the fire is on a floor below your apartment you may be caught by rising heat and smoke in the stairways. If the fire is above your apartment there is less danger in leaving but also less of a reason to leave as the smoke and heat are above you.
–Keep your door CLOSED.
–Seal the door with duct tape or wet sheets and towels. Seal ventilators and any other openings where smoke may enter.
–Turn off air conditioners.
–Unless flames or smoke are coming from below, open your windows a few inches at the top or bottom. Don’t break windows; they may need to be closed later.
–Call the Fire Department with your apartment number and description of the conditions in your apartment. Firefighters will be directed to your location.
Did you know?
You can’t see or smell carbon monoxide. The only safe way to detect this deadly gas in your home is with a working CO alarm. Install one on each level of your home and in sleeping areas.
Most home fires start in the kitchen. Do you have a kitchen fire extinguisher on hand when you cook? If not, try Kidde’s new kitchen fire extinguisher. It has a special nozzle designed to minimize the chance of splashbacks, and is the only fire extinguisher that’s UL-listed for use with residential cooking equipment.
The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to those of the flu. A misdiagnosis could be deadly.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is produced anytime a fuel is burned. Potential sources include gas or oil furnaces, water heaters, space heaters, clothes dryers, barbecue grills, fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, gas ovens, generators and car exhaust fumes.
* If anyone is experiencing symptoms from carbon monoxide, get everyone into fresh air and call 911 from a neighbor’s home. If no one is experiencing symptoms, call the fire department or a qualified technician from a neighbor’s home to have the problem inspected.
* If you can’t leave the home to call for help, open the doors and windows, and turn off all possible sources while you are waiting for assistance. Never ignore the alarm!
* According to the National Fire Protection Association, in one out of five homes with smoke alarms, none of the alarms work — mainly because of dead or missing batteries.
* The risk of dying in homes without smoke alarms is twice as high as it is in homes that have working smoke alarms.
* On average, families have less than three minutes from the time the first smoke alarm sounds to escape a fire.
* Underwriters Laboratories (UL), a third-party testing facility, requires an end-of-life warning to alert homeowners when their CO alarm has reached the end of its useful life. Kidde has included this feature in its alarms since 2001. Don’t wait. Beat the beep!
More High-Rise Fire Safety Tips
It is important to know the fire safety features of your building and work with your neighbors to keep your building as fire-safe as possible.
For the best protection, select a fully sprinklered building. If your building is not sprinklered, ask the landlord or management to consider installing a sprinkler system.
Meet with your landlord or building manager to learn about the fire safety features of your building (fire alarms, sprinklers, voice communication procedures, evacuation plans, and how to respond to an alarm). Insist that all fire safety systems be kept in working order.
Know the locations of all available exit stairs from your floor in case the nearest one is blocked by fire or smoke.
If you use a wheelchair or walker or are unable to make it down the stairs in case of an emergency, talk with your landlord or building manager about purchasing an evacuation chair.
Make sure all exit and stairwell doors are clearly marked, are not locked or blocked by security bars, and are clear of clutter.
Learn the location of your building’s fire alarms and how to use them. If there is a fire, pull the fire alarm on your way out of the building to notify the fire department and your neighbors.
Leave the building by the fastest route but do not use elevators.
Close all doors behind you and be sure to take your key.
If there is smoke or fire on your way out, use your second way out. If you must escape through smoke, get low and go under the smoke to your way out.
Some evacuation plans require you to go to a “safe area” (“shelter in place”) inside the high-rise and wait for instructions from the fire department. Listen for instructions from firefighters or public address system. You may be told to stay where you are. Follow instructions. Go to your outside meeting place and
stay there. Call the fire department. If someone is trapped in the building, notify the fire department.
If you can’t get out of your apartment because of fire, smoke, or a disability, stuff wet towels or sheets around the door and vents to keep smoke out. Call the fire department and tell them where you are. Open a window slightly and wave a bright cloth to signal your location. Be prepared to close the window if it makes the smoke condition worse. Fire department evacuation of a high-rise building can take a long time. Communicate with the fire department to monitor evacuation status.
Home Escape Planning Safety Tips
If a fire breaks out in your home, you have only a few minutes to get out safely once the smoke alarm sounds. Everyone needs to know how to get outside if there is a fire.
Draw a floor plan of your home. Visit each room and, if possible, find two ways out. Mark the ways out on the escape plan.
All windows and doors should open easily and should not be blocked by furniture or clutter. Make sure the escape routes are clear. You should be able to use them to get outside.
Make sure your home has smoke alarms. Push the test button to make sure each alarm is working. If you cannot safely reach the smoke alarm, ask for help. Everyone in your home should be able to recognize the sound of the smoke alarm.
Choose an outside meeting place. It should be in front of and away from your home and should be something permanent, such as a tree or a neighbor’s house. Everyone should agree to meet at the meeting place after they escape.
Make sure everyone in your home knows the fire department’s emergency number. Assign someone to help any household members who may have difficulty getting out alone.
Everyone in the home should practice the escape drill together at least twice a year. Close doors behind you as you leave. Tell house guests about your fire escape plan.
Prepare for a real fire. When a smoke alarm sounds, get outside immediately. Once you’re outside, stay outside. Leave the firefighting to the professionals. Remember, get out first and then call for help. Never go back inside until the fire department gives the OK. Things can be replaced. You cannot.
If smoke or fire blocks one of your ways out, use another way out. If you must go through smoke, get low and go under the smoke to escape.
Fire Safety Tips for People with Disabilities
Most fire deaths happen in the home. Everyone should have a fire escape plan and practice how to get outside.
Home fire sprinklers can contain and may even put out a fire in less time than it would take the fire department to arrive. When choosing an apartment or remodeling or purchasing a home, look for a residence that has home fire sprinklers.
Include everyone in planning and practicing home fire drills. People with disabilities can provide input on the best methods for them to escape.
People with disabilities should discuss what assistance they may need with everyone in the home (and with neighbors).
In an apartment building, know the location of all exit stairs and arrange for assistance in case of an emergency. Choose an outside meeting place for everyone to meet after escaping.
Keep a telephone or phone with TDD (telecommunication device for the deaf) in the sleeping room within reach of the bed.
Install smoke alarms inside every bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of your home. For the best protection, interconnect all the smoke alarms so that when one sounds, they all sound.
Smoke alarms and alert devices, called accessories, are available for people who are deaf. Strobe lights throughout the home are activated by smoke alarms and alert people who are deaf to fire conditions. When people who are deaf are asleep, a high-intensity strobe light along with a pillow shaker or a bed shaker can wake them up and alert them
to fire conditions.
Smoke alarm alert devices, called accessories, are available for people who are hard of hearing. These accessories produce a loud, mixed low-pitched sound. This equipment is activated by the sound of the smoke alarm and is usually installed next to the bed.
People who are hard of hearing may find that a pillow shaker or a bed shaker is also helpful to wake them.
Test smoke alarms at least once a month using the test button. If you are unable to safely reach the alarm, ask for help.
Some alarms have features that make them easier to test, such as with a flashlight or the television remote.
Practice your home fire escape drill twice a year.
Source: This post first appeared on abc7NY