Recent Bronx Fires Reminds Owners of Fire Safety Plan’s Importance

The recent tragic fire that spread through a Bronx apartment building claiming the lives of 12 people including five children has been deemed New York City’s deadliest since 87 people were killed at a Bronx club in 1990. According to reports, the flames spread quickly from a ground-floor apartment and up the open stairwell, which the city’s fire chief said “acted like a chimney.” Some tried to flee down stairs that were consumed by flames and smoke. And other residents climbed onto fire escapes when the first firefighters arrived.

The fire has been a good reminder to owners of the importance of the city-mandated fire safety plan. Since 2000, every residential building has been required to prepare a fire safety plan, following a model prepared by the Fire Department. This plan is distributed annually to all the occupants and service employees of the building either during the first week of October, which is Fire Safety Month, or with the window guard notice in January.

The plan must also be distributed to every new building occupant and every new building employee. It must be revised and redistributed within 60 days of any material change in building conditions affecting it. Records of distribution must be maintained; acceptable documentation includes a U.S Postal Service certificate of mailing or, for hand delivery, dated and signed receipts. The Fire Department may inspect these building records at any time and should be presented with copies of the last five annual fire safety plans.

Local law requires that an owner: (1)complete a building information sheet (the Fire Safety Plan) that describes the construction of the building and its fire safety systems, and sets forth all the means of egress from the building; (2) distribute fire preparedness and evacuation instructions to the building occupants and building service employees; and (3) post fire-safety notices at the appropriate locations.

The fire safety notice serves to inform building occupants, service employees, and visitors about procedures to be followed in the event of fire in the building. Fire safety notices must also be prepared, posted in a conspicuous location near any common mailbox area or near the elevators or main stairwell and distributed to every apartment. These notices must be laminated or framed under a clear plexiglass cover to protect them from wear and tear.

Apartment residents are responsible for posting the Fire Safety Notices on the inside of their front doors. There is no requirement to inspect or to verify that residents maintain their fire safety notices on their doors, but, if a resident requests a replacement notice, this must be provided, although a reasonable charge can be levied.