City Council Approves Fire Safety Bills for Residential Buildings
The City Council recently voted to approve a series of eight fire safety bills with the goal of making residential buildings safer. The bills were created in response to the Dec. 28, 2017, Bronx fire that killed 13 people, making it the city’s deadliest fire in more than a quarter century. According to fire investigators, the fire was started by a 3-year-old boy playing with burners on the stove. The boy’s mom grabbed her two kids and dashed out the door, leaving it open and allowing flames to shoot up the building stairwell.
In the lead up to the fire safety bills’ passage, Fire Department Chief of Operations John Sudnik testified to the City Council that the department supported the “intent” of the stove safety bill. One of several safety measures, this bill involves the installation of child-safety knobs on stoves. Sudnik pointed out, however, that it would be “very difficult” to enforce. And it wouldn’t prevent every type of stove-related fire. Last year the department responded to 17 fires started by kids playing with burners—but also to 15,000 other stove-related fires, including cases of adults forgetting food on the stove or to turn off a burner. The department did, however, put its full support behind a bill that would require self-closing doors in apartment buildings. Officials have said closing the door could have saved many of the lives lost in the Bronx fire.
The mayor is expected to sign the bills into law, which will go into effect 180 days after he does so. We’ll explain what the bills, once enacted, will require.
FDNY to Conduct Outreach and Education
Introduction 599-A, sponsored by Speaker Corey Johnson, would require that fire safety guides are distributed in apartment buildings and that fire safety and prevention educational materials as well as relevant trainings are provided to building staff.
According to the City Council, the FDNY must make a “good faith effort” to directly contact owners and occupants of R-2 buildings, ensuring that the appropriate procedures, resources, and educational materials are in place. Complying with this rule may include providing notices, materials, and trainings.
Additionally, the FDNY would be required to submit annual reports on such outreach efforts, starting Jan. 31 of next year and continuing annually thereafter.
“The Council will do everything in its power to make sure tragedies like we saw in the Bronx over the winter do not happen again. With this package, we will require New York’s bravest to ensure that all residential tenants are provided with fire safety information to help our City’s families remain safe in their homes. I thank Fire and Emergency Management Committee Chair Joseph Borelli, Housing and Buildings Committee Chair Robert Cornegy and all my colleagues for their efforts and support on these bills,” said Speaker Corey Johnson.
Self-Closing Doors in Residential Buildings by 2021
Introduction 602-A, sponsored by Council Member Joseph Borelli, would require that all doors in residential occupancies be self-closing by July 31, 2021, and create a class C violation of the Housing Maintenance Code for failing to keep and maintain self-closing doors.
According to the text, “All doors providing access to interior corridors or stairs in occupancy groups R-1 and R-2 shall be self-closing or equipped with a device that will ensure closing after having been opened by July 31, 2020.” The rule also states that “it shall be the duty of the owner of a multiple dwelling, which is required to be equipped with self-closing doors pursuant to section 28-315.10, or any other applicable law, to keep and maintain such doors in good repair.”
In addition, the rule states, “Any owner required to keep and maintain self-closing doors pursuant to subdivision A of this section who fails to keep or maintain such doors shall be liable for a class C immediately hazardous violation. Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, the time within which to correct such violation shall be twenty-one days after service of the notice of violation.”
“This bill will save lives. I know that this package of bills, including the education and outreach components of my colleagues’ legislation, will make our city a safer place. I’m so grateful to Speaker Johnson, my colleagues, and the wonderful committee staff for all of their hard work and determination to accomplish this,” said Council Member Joe Borelli.
FDNY to Meet Standards for Fire Hydrant Inspections
Introduction 603-A, sponsored by Council Member Costa Constantinides, would codify the Fire Department’s existing hydrant inspection practice. Additionally, the Department of Environmental Protection would be required to report on the occurrence and results of such inspections, including information on the number of hydrants subject to inspection, the number of inspections that occurred in the prior calendar year, the number of hydrants found to be inoperable through inspection, the number of hydrants found inoperable and classified as priority hydrants, and the number of priority hydrants not subsequently repaired after being found inoperable.
Standards for Mandatory Smoke Alarms in Residential Buildings
Introduction 604-A, sponsored by Council Members Robert Cornegy and Chaim Deutsch, would require that after Jan. 1, 2021, where a smoke alarm is within 10 feet from a cooking appliance, it be must meet the standards set in the 8th edition of UL 217, and a smoke detector within 10 feet of a cooking appliance must meet the standards set in the 7th edition of UL 268. The bill also requires that if a smoke detector is between 10 and 20 feet from a cooking appliance, the smoke detector must be equipped with a silence function or use photoelectric detection.
Emergency Evacuation Preparedness for Individuals with Disabilities or Limited Mobility
Introduction 606-A, sponsored by Council Members Donovan Richards and Chaim Deutsch, would require the FDNY, in consultation with the Office of Emergency Management and the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, to develop a checklist to assist individuals with disabilities or limited mobility in developing individualized emergency evacuation plans.
“After Sandy, I saw firsthand the trouble many seniors and New Yorkers with disabilities experienced while having to evacuate their homes in an emergency. It was clear that residents, landlords and the city could be doing so much more to prepare for the next storm or fire. Int. 606-A focuses on properly preparing residents by requiring that FDNY, OEM and the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities help residents create a checklist for their own individualized evacuation plans. I’d like to thank Speaker Johnson and Chair Cornegy for their support on this legislation,” said Council Member Donovan Richards.
Mandatory Notices About Closing Apartment Doors When Escaping Fire
Introduction 608-A, sponsored by Council Member Ritchie Torres, would require the posting of notices within residential buildings regarding the importance of closing doors when escaping a fire to prevent the spread of fire. According to the text, “The department shall require owners of multiple dwellings to post a notice in conspicuous locations indicating that those escaping a fire should close all doors behind them.” Currently, there’s no required language or sample post from the FDNY.
FDNY to Educate Both Children and Parents About Fire Safety and Prevention
Introduction 609-A, sponsored by Council Member Ritchie Torres, would require the FDNY, in consultation with the Department of Education, to develop and implement a plan for educating children and parents about common fire dangers and prevention measures. Such a plan will include outreach at schools, public service announcements, and information on preventative measures to be taken by parents. Additionally, the FDNY will be required to report annually on such efforts.
Mandatory Stove Knob Covers in Residential Buildings
Introduction 610-A, sponsored by Council Member Ritchie Torres, would require that all landlords provide stove knob covers to tenants in units where children under the age of 6 reside to prevent the children from using the stove.
According to the law, “Such owner shall provide an annual notice to each tenant of a unit regarding the owner’s obligation to provide stove knob covers pursuant to subdivision a of this section. Such notice shall inform the tenant of his or her option to refuse stove knob covers.” Tenants can then respond in writing if they refuse stove knob covers. If the tenant does not refuse in writing, the owner must make knob covers available to the tenant.
Owners would have to keep records of all written refusal notifications, all attempts to provide stove knob covers to the tenant, units where stove knob covers were made available, and tenants who have requested stove knob covers.