About a week after a fire in Midtown killed a promising playwright, a councilman from Manhattan has proposed a bill calling for new fire safety measures in residential high-rise buildings. According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, City Councilman Corey Johnson wants a law passed that would require all existing and future high-rises to have a way for first responders to communicate with people who are trying to evacuate during a fire. A 27-year-old man died from smoke inhalation in the Jan. 5 Midtown fire as he tried to escape from his 38th floor apartment. An overloaded power strip in a 20th-floor apartment at the Strand condominiums sparked the fire.
Fire officials say the man would have survived had he remained in his apartment. A friend of the victim has started a petition drive calling for public access systems to be installed in emergency stairwells in all high-rises. The petition has so far received more than 5,000 signatures. The petition has also sparked this proposed legislation. Currently, public address systems are required for all residential buildings that are over 125 feet tall and built in or after 2009. Safety experts say that such a system would no doubt save lives during high-rise fires.
According to a report in The New York Times, of the 67 fire deaths in the city in 2013, 18 occurred in high-rise buildings. In 1998, four people died from smoke inhalation in a stairwell of an Upper West Side apartment tower. After that fire, a law was passed requiring all new high-rises and those undergoing major renovation, to have sprinkler systems. A law in 2008 required new buildings over 125 feet tall to have emergency intercom systems.
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Source: The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times
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