Whether it affects a small portion of one unit or the entire association, a fire is easily one of the most devastating and destructive events that can happen in any multifamily building. New technology and current regulations have made fires easier to prevent, control and extinguish, but residents and building staff still must be educated about what to do in an emergency situation, as well as how to prevent a fire from occurring in the first place.
Approximately 9,000 to 10,000 fires break out each year in New York City, according to Dolores Domenick of Master Fire Prevention Systems, Inc. in the Bronx. The primary causes of fires in homes include electrical issues, cooking and simple carelessness. “Carelessness” includes things like smoking in bed, using illegal propane or kerosene heaters and placing heaters to close to flammable materials, says Domenick.
Domenick points out that that number might not be entirely accurate however, as many small fires, or those that do not trigger a building- or system-wide alarm, often go unreported.
“…A lot of them are not reported,” agrees Ray Weinstein, president and chief executive officer of Croker Fire Drill Corp. in Islip Terrace, New York. “Sometimes if it’s contained and the alarm never went off, it might not be reported. Normally when an apartment fire is reported, the alarm bells are activated and it goes to fire department or alarm monitoring company. Those have to be reported. There are always little grease fires in kitchens that management might not be aware of—sometimes no one ever knows.”
When a building’s fire alarm system is activated, the fire department or alarm monitoring company is notified, and a paper trail is created. Some buildings are equipped with a fire command station, which includes an enunciator panel board. That board will show where in the building the alarm bells have activated.