An engineer checking and inspecting the fire extinguisher for safety training and fire prevention

With New York City home to over 8 million residents and close to a million buildings, public safety is of the utmost concern. This is given the population density. The Department of Buildings (DOB) ensures that NYC’s many skyscrapers and apartment buildings follow all safety regulations and laws. Fire safety is of particular concern. Residents need to be able to quickly and safely evacuate a building in an emergency. Unfortunately, building managers and tenants aren’t always the best about adhering to these regulations. Violations during fire safety inspections are common. Here is a look at the most common fire code violations businesses and apartment complexes receive in NYC.   

Improper Use of Extension Cords

One of the most common and dangerous fire code violations is the improper use of extension cords. At the same time, extension cords are convenient and may not seem like a safety hazard. Misusing them can be extremely dangerous. The fact is that extension cords should be temporary. But people often use this as a permanent power delivery source in many homes and businesses. Unfortunately, using power cords for months or years significantly increases the likelihood that they will fail and start a fire. The safest option is to add more outlets if there are additional areas in your home/business that need power. 

Improper Safety Signage

Improper safety signage is one of the more fire code violations. Safety signage is critical in ensuring residents/tenants can quickly and safely exit a building in the event of an emergency. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for emergency exit signs to be poorly maintained. For instance, not being lit properly or even blocked. To ensure the quick and safe evacuation of buildings, NYC requires commercial buildings to have illuminated. They also need to have unblocked exit signs with battery backup power that can provide illumination for 90 minutes during power outages. You should check the batteries monthly and need to be certified annually to pass fire inspections. 

Faulty Smoke Detectors

An extremely common (yet easy to fix) fire code violation is faulty smoke detectors. While it is obvious when something is wrong with a smoke detector as it will start chirping, replacing the battery can seem like a hassle. You may also be tempted to remove it to stop the chirping. However, this is extremely dangerous. If your smoke detector starts chirping, you must replace the battery immediately. You should also make sure that you replace the batteries in all of your smoke detectors annually. You should replace your smoke detectors every ten years.  

Blocked/Locked Emergency Exits

To ensure occupants can evacuate a building as quickly as possible during an emergency, you must unblock all doors and exits 100% of the time. Leaving merchandise in front of a door could prove hazardous in a fire. You have to clear all emergency exit doors and pathways and exit doors and windows should not require a tool or key to open from the inside. 

Blocked Fire Department Connections and Valves

If a fire breaks out, time is of the essence. The fire department will need to be able to quickly access water connections and valves so that they can prevent as much damage as possible. Unfortunately, one of the most common fire code violations in NYC is blocked exterior fire department connections (FDC). No business equipment, pallets, or dumpsters block your exterior FDC to ensure the fire department can effectively do its job. You should also ensure that there is a clear path at all times between the FDC and where the fire department will stage its operations.

Missing Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers can play a critical role in putting out small fires before they have a chance to spread and engulf a building. Unfortunately, maintaining fire extinguishers is a task that often gets neglected, and missing, damaged, or partially used fire extinguishers are a common violation found during fire safety infections. To avoid fines as violations, you should have your fire extinguishers inspected and serviced annually, and you should replace fire extinguishers immediately after use.  

Broken Fire Alarms

A fire safety device that people often neglect in buildings is fire alarm pull stations and other fire protection systems. To avoid a violation during a fire safety inspection, you must have these systems inspected and tested regularly as required by the fire code. You need to test all fire alarms and their components annually by a licensed technician. Ensure you keep a written log of these inspections as required by the fire code.  

Improper Sprinkler Systems

Unless you are the original tenant of a new building, there have likely been several businesses that had used your space before you arrived. However, what you may not know is that different types of businesses require different sprinkler systems. It is your duty to ensure that your sprinkler system meets your commodity classification. If you opened a business in a previously used space, it is critical that you have your sprinkler system inspected and retrofitted (if necessary). This is to make sure your business meets the fire code.   

Hanging Items From Sprinkler Systems

If your building’s sprinkler system has exposed piping, you may see these pipes as a convenient place to hang clothing or holiday decorations. However, not only is this a fire code violation, but it can also be extremely hazardous. Hanging anything from your sprinkler system could accidentally activate the system, causing costly water damage to the building. 

Not Keeping Sufficient Records

Every time you have your building’s fire protection system serviced, maintained, and/or inspected, the company that performs the work will provide you with written records. It is important that you keep these records as evidence that you have had your system serviced and inspected as required by the fire code. Not having proper records on hand during an inspection is a common reason for receiving a violation. Fortunately, if you use the same fire protection company every time, you can easily obtain new copies of your records if necessary. Should you lose them, you must ensure you always have a copy of your service records on hand. 

Ensuring that your building is up to the fire code is not only essential in preventing fines and violations. Still, it is also critical to ensure the safety of your employees/tenants. If you own/manage a building in NYC, please contact us for more advice on ensuring your building meets fire safety regulations.