Engineer and foreman inspecting sprinkler system in a construction site (2)

A fire in a multi-story apartment building in New York City can quickly lead to a tragic outcome. With injury, loss of personal possessions, displacement, and death that can occur from a serious fire, it pays to be proactive with your fire protection steps. Consider the over 300 firefighters that battled a large NYC apartment building fire that caused 21 people to suffer injuries (including 16 firefighters). While this top-floor fire which broke out in Jackson Heights, Queens, didn’t cause any serious injuries, it did displace around 240 people (90 families) and 150 apartments, according to fire officials

In another Bronx high-rise fire in NYC, the outcome wasn’t so fortunate with 17 individuals being killed — a serious wake-up call to ensure you have the proper fire protection measures in your own building. So, how can you take fire protection and prevention seriously?

How Can You Ensure Strong Fire Protection in Your Multi-Story NYC Apartment?

When it comes to high-rise and multi-story apartment buildings in New York City, it’s so important that both building owners and tenants put serious thought into fire protection systems. These buildings pose a much bigger challenge for tenants to exit the building during a fire due to their multiple floors. Therefore, to protect residents of multi-story or high-rise apartment buildings, there should be fire safety measures and protection systems in place, including:

1. Smoke Detectors 

There should be a smoke detector in every bedroom of your home and one within 15 feet of each bedroom. The law requires smoke detectors to be permanently connected or hard-wired to the electrical system of the building. Older building residents will have separate smoke detectors connected to the walls and ceilings. You’ll want to check that they’re properly operating and that the batteries are still good on a regular basis.

smoke detector

2. Emergency Exits 

It’s important that you know where all the emergency exits in your building are and how to get to them. For building residents with mobility problems, they’ll need an exit strategy to get out of the building in the event that the elevators are out of service. NYC fire safety regulations require a posted escape plan for all common areas and apartment doors.

Ensure you can use your fire escape safely. Fire escapes aren’t a place for you to go out and get fresh air or dry your clothes. They’re actually your escape route if there’s a fire and you cannot exit through your building. So, you should keep them clear at all times. If you’re the building or landlord, it’s required by Local Law 11 that you have fire escapes inspected every five years in buildings that are six stories high or higher. 

Emergency Fire exit door with alarm bell in residential building

3. Fire Resistant Stairwell

Residents should never use elevators during a fire. They should safely evacuate the building using the stairs. High-rise buildings should have fire-resistant stairwells since they resist fire and allow occupants to exit the building safely using the stairs.

Fire-resistant stairwell in a modern building with arrows directing emergency exit path

4. Voice Communication

Evacuating a multi-story apartment building goes much smoother when a voice communication system is installed. Voice communication systems help direct occupants where to go and what to do in an emergency like a fire to keep them safe.

5. Self-Closing Doors

All buildings with three or more apartments are required to have self-closing doors. If the doors operate properly, they’ll work like barriers and cut oxygen off to stop the fire from spreading. But, if they aren’t properly maintained, they’ll cause a serious issue, which is what occurred in the Bronx high-rise fire mentioned above. To know if the doors are working correctly, push them open, and they should swing back and close on their own. They’ll click and latch.

6. Fire Sprinklers

New York City multi-story buildings should have a building-wise sprinkler system in them. In 1999, following two fatal fires, New York City enacted a law requiring new residential buildings and existing ones undergoing extensive renovations to have sprinkler systems installed. 

7. “Non-Combustible” Materials

The types of materials a building is made of can make a huge difference in whether or not the building is safe to shelter in or if residents should flee. There are a couple of materials used in building construction — “combustible vs. “non-combustible.” According to NYC’s fire preparedness guide, “combustible” buildings are those that have structures constructed from wood or other materials that are flammable by themselves. If your apartment building is constructed with combustible materials, it’s best to exit the building as fast as possible during a fire.

Buildings constructed with “non-combustible” materials means its materials are made from brick, concrete, or steel that won’t burn and will likely stay structurally sound. In these buildings, you might be safer sheltering in your apartment. Your apartment building should have this information posted on a fire safety guide in the building lobby.

The best thing you can do is always practice safety. You should:

  • Never block doors or windows with heavy furniture
  • Keep kitchen air ducts free of grease
  • Eliminate possible fire hazards by not accumulating trash around the building or in the apartment
  • Don’t store flammable materials in your apartment

Let your building superintendent know of all potential fire hazards. Call your local fire department or other authorities if no action is taken.

Local Fire Protection Standards Compliance

New York City, the NFPA, and local jurisdictions have standards that must be met when it comes to fire protection and prevention. Multi-story building owners need to work with a fire protection professional to have their fire extinguisher, sprinkler, and alarm systems tested and inspected as frequently as local code and NFPA standards require.

When you neglect to properly maintain your fire protection systems, you could end up with a violation or, even worse, an improperly functioning fire protection system that may fail when you need it the most. You can keep your fire protection systems functional with regular inspections. 

Call On the NYC Fire Protection Professionals

JAM Service Company provides fire protection services for all types of residential and commercial buildings from one story to 35 and up. We service many clients ranging from property managers to homeowners to high-rise residential developers. Contact us today to learn more about the different types of NYC fire protection services we offer.