Councilmen Tout Fire Safety Legislation  as Blaze Deaths Soar

Councilmen Tout Fire Safety Legislation as Blaze Deaths Soar

Photo Courtesy of Councilman Grodenchik’s Office

“Smoke detectors and even fire alarms are not enough. We need sprinkler systems to save lives,” Councilman Grodenchik said.

By Forum Staff

With fire fatalities in the five boroughs escalating at an alarming rate, three City councilmen recently led a rally on the steps of City Hall to herald a bill that they said would fortify fire safety measures.

Councilmen Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens), Robert Cornegy (D-Brooklyn), and Carlos Menchaca (D-Brooklyn) noted that Introduction 1146-A would require residential buildings over forty feet high to install sprinklers by 2029. The measure, which aims to improve fire safety as Local Law 26 of 2004 did for commercial buildings, is sponsored by Grodenchik and co-sponsored by Cornegy, chairman of the Committee on Housing and Buildings.

“Fires, especially those that break out hundreds or thousands of feet above street level, require more than passive solutions like smoke detectors and fireproof construction,” Cornegy said. “Sprinkler systems represent an active solution to life-endangering fires in large residential buildings. It is time we bring the law up to date to protect New York citizens.”

According to the City Fire Department, fire fatalities in New York City shot up to 88 in 2018 from 43 in 2017. So far this year, there have been 56. And the Bureau of Fire Investigation’s annual report indicates there were 3,032 accidental fires and 1,001 fire injuries in 2018.

“Tragically, many of the victims of fire fatalities are children,” Grodenchik said. “Smoke detectors and even fire alarms are not enough. We need sprinkler systems to save lives.”

Menchaca said he knows all too well the devastation that fires can wreak in high-rise buildings.

“This April, a fire ripped through a building in my district in the neighborhood of Sunset Park. Many of my neighbors were displaced and had to enter shelters or leave New York City,” Menchaca added. “That is simply unacceptable. Fire safety must be understood as more than a safety issue. It’s a housing issue; a human rights issue. From that lens, no cost is too high. We must do the right thing and install sprinkler technology wherever we can.”

At last week’s rally, the councilmen pointed to a recent University of Nevada study that determined that smoke detectors are not enough to save lives or prevent property damage.

“Studies have shown that properly installed and maintained fire sprinklers are effective at controlling a fire 96 percent of the time,” said Tony Saporito of the New York Fire Sprinkler Council, a division of the Mechanical Contractors Association of New York. “By simply requiring that owners of older multi-family homes install and maintain the same fire sprinkler systems that keep office workers and residents of newer buildings safe today, Intro 1146-A will save lives.”

Steamfitters Local 638 President Patrick Dolan added, “Millions of New Yorkers live in older buildings that simply have no sprinklers because their landlords are not yet required to provide this protection. Data shows conclusively that fire sprinklers save lives and all New Yorkers are entitled to the equal level of fire protection and safety as residents of newer buildings or travelers staying in our city’s hotels.”


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