A fire can be one of the most devastating and destructive occurrences in any multi-family building, whether it affects a small portion of one unit or the entire association. Luckily, new technology and current regulations have made fires easier to prevent, control and extinguish. However, residents and building staff still must be educated about what to do in an emergency situation, as well as how to prevent a fire from occurring in the first place.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there were some 530,500 structure fires reported in the US last year (up 1 percent from 2006), causing 3,000 civilian deaths, 15,350 civilian injuries, and $10.6 billion in property damage. Harm to person and property aside, the long-term emotional damage to fire victims and their loved ones is incalculable. According to the NFPA, primary causes of fires in homes include electrical issues, cooking and carelessness. That “carelessness” often includes smoking in bed, illegal propane or kerosene heaters and placing illegal heaters to close to flammable materials.
Sobering though the figures above might be, even they don’t reflect the entire picture when it comes to residential fires. Many small fires—those that do not trigger a building- or system-wide alarm, for example—often go unreported, though they may still cause damage.
“Sometimes, if [a fire] is contained and the alarm never went off, it might not be reported,” says Ray Weinstein, president and chief executive officer of Croker Fire Drill Corp. in Islip Terrace, New York. “Normally [with] an apartment fire, the alarm bells are activated and it goes to fire department or alarm monitoring company. Those have to be reported. But there are always little grease fires in kitchens, and management might not be aware of them. Sometimes no one ever knows.”
Where There’s Smoke…
In some condo buildings, when the building’s fire alarm system is activated and the fire department or alarm monitoring company is notified, the signal goes through a fire command station, which includes an enunciator panel board. That board will show building staff and others where in the building the alarm bells have activated.