FDNY Proposes Changes to Fire Safety Guides, Distribution Requirements
The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) recently proposed a rule that would change the content and delivery of the annual residential fire safety guides. A rule is a type of law that is proposed and adopted by a city agency. The rulemaking process generally takes a minimum of 60 days, and during this period, agencies are required to provide New Yorkers with an opportunity to review and comment on the proposed rules. The comment period on FDNY’s proposed rule regarding fire safety guides recently closed. Once all of the testimony and comments have been reviewed, the FDNY will modify the rules based on the public’s feedback, if necessary, then draft a final version. A copy will be posted on NYC Rules, published in the City Record, and submitted to the City Council. The rule takes effect 30 days after the final version is published.
Since 2000, New York City has required apartment building owners to print and distribute residential fire safety guides to apartment building residents and building staff, and to post fire safety notices on the inside of dwelling unit entrance doors and in building lobbies.
The purpose of these fire safety guides and notices is to:
· Promote fire safety and fire prevention in apartment buildings;
· Educate residents and building staff about the design and construction of their building, including construction type, fire protection systems, and means of egress; and
· Outline emergency procedures to assist them in the event that they are confronted by a fire and need to determine what action to take to protect themselves and their families.
The format, content, distribution, and posting requirements for the fire safety guide and notices were incorporated into the 2008 Fire Code (in FC408.9) and in Fire Department rule 3 RCNY §408-02, which the proposed rule would amend.
New Fire and Emergency Preparedness Guide
The 2014 Fire Code comprehensively revised Chapter 4, which governs emergency planning and preparedness, and moved the fire safety guide and notice requirements to FC401.6. The 2014 Fire Code expanded the scope of the guide to encompass non-fire emergencies, such as medical emergencies, severe weather emergencies, power outages, hazardous materials releases, and terrorism-related incidents.
This proposed rule would implement the 2014 Fire Code by replacing the existing Fire Safety Guide with a new Fire and Emergency Preparedness Guide (FEP Guide) entitled “New York City Apartment Building Emergency Preparedness Guide.” Like its predecessor, the proposed FEP Guide consists of two parts. Part I is the Building Information Section, a form completed by the owner for each building indicating the building’s construction, fire protection systems, means of egress, and other information specific to the building for which it is prepared. The proposed rule would not substantially change the existing content requirements for this obligation, except to require the owner to indicate whether there is an emergency voice communication system in the building.
Part II of the FEP Guide is designed to educate all building occupants about ways to prepare for emergencies, prevent fires, and protect themselves from various fire and non-fire emergencies. In addition, the FEP Guide emphasizes emergency preparedness planning for persons with functional or access needs who will need assistance if they must evacuate the building in an emergency. During most non-fire emergencies, the elevator is available to evacuate persons unable to walk down stairs without assistance, and in modern buildings of non-combustible construction, all residents are generally advised to shelter in place during the fire. The guide explains the importance of developing an individualized evacuation plan and a network of supports who can assist persons with functional or access needs in the event of an emergency in which they need to evacuate and they cannot use the elevator, such as in the case of a fire in their apartment.
Revised FEP Guide Distribution Requirements
Currently, the Fire Safety Guide must be given to apartment building residents at time of occupancy (when they first move into the building) and must be distributed again every year. The Fire Department proposed requiring distribution of the new FEP Guide at the time of occupancy and again as part of a building-wide distribution every three years.
During the off-years, the proposed rule would require building owners to distribute a short informational bulletin (four pages or less), which would be used to highlight and reinforce an important, timely fire safety or other emergency preparedness message. This would take advantage of an opportunity to communicate lessons learned or other message when the issue is fresh in the public’s mind because of a recent fire or other incident. The informational bulletin will remind apartment building residents to familiarize themselves with the contents of the FEP Guide and advise them on how to obtain a copy if they have not received one.
Additionally, the Fire Department proposes to authorize electronic distribution of the FEP Guide (by email or other form of electronic transmission) to apartment residents and building staff. This would encourage the development of electronic communications between owners and residents that can be used for other emergency preparedness communications and in actual emergencies.