In January, a couple was caught in an apartment fire at the Strand Condominium on West 43rd Street in Manhattan. One person died, and the other suffered serious smoke inhalation. The tragic situation could have been even worse; other residents complained afterward that they were confused about what to do in the case of a fire in their building.
Sadly, according to a spokesperson at the New York City Fire Department (FDNY), this is not an uncommon occurrence when major fires break out in multifamily buildings. It’s not so much that those in charge don’t have a set of emergency plans in place, but that those plans are often not adequately communicated with residents.
Improved smoke alarms, mandatory sprinkler systems, and cutting-edge, flame-resistant building materials have all helped to reduce the frequency of deadly apartment fires in the last few decades, but fires do still happen. And whether they’re minor blazes in private kitchens or four-alarm infernos like the one at the Strand, the main concern of anyone in any building is to get themselves, their families and their neighbors out safely.
According to the FDNY, the top five causes of accidental fires are electrical, smoking-related, faulty appliances, careless cooking, and open flames such as candles or matches that get out of hand. Carmelo Milio, director of property management for Trion Real Estate Management in Yonkers says that in addition to the big five that the FDNY lists, space heaters and linty dryer vents are also big fire hazards in condos.
Because of these risks, “In the New York City metro area, we are required to install carbon monoxide and smoke detectors in all dwelling units,” he says. “All residents should always have a fire extinguisher and operating smoke detector in their unit.”