Twenty years ago, Lisa Collier Cool was sleeping in her 14th floor apartment on West 72nd Street in Manhattan when her dog began barking. Not wanting to get up, Lisa tried to go back to sleep, but the dog was adamant and continued. Lisa awoke to find her room filling with black smoke. Rushing to escape a potentially deadly situation, she opened her front door, but the hallway was even smokier. She decided to stay put until the fireman came to the apartment, which they did a short time later, rescuing both Lisa and her dog.
Later, she found out that an overloaded electrical socket in a third floor apartment sparked the fire. “I just wish my building had offered some sort of a plan,” said Cool, who now lives in Westchester. “We didn’t know what to do in case of an emergency.”
Fortunately, times have changed and buildings are more readily prepared for such emergencies. According to statistics compiled by the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) website, there were 2,544 structural fires in the five boroughs during October of 2005 alone. To help alert residents of the danger, or help them to neutralize the danger should it ignite, it’s imperative that buildings are equipped with the right emergency products.
Today, residential buildings have – or should have—evacuation plans that are reviewed and practiced on a regular basis, as well as smoke detectors installed in hallways and lobbies. For residents, it’s hopefully now common knowledge that every apartment and home should be equipped with at least one fire extinguisher, smoke detectors and (more recently) carbon monoxide detectors.
However, although Local Law 7 of 2004 requires the installation of carbon monoxide detectors in all new and existing buildings, they only have to be placed within individual residential units, and are not required in the lobby or building corridors, hallways or stairwells. Some units in buildings without fossil fuel burning furnaces or boilers may be exempt from this requirement.