Where There’s Smoke... Developing Sound Fire Safety Policies

One only needs to watch the news regularly to understand the devastation that a fire can have on a home or community whatever the time of year. A condo fire in October in Dunellen injured a firefighter and destroyed much of the complex, leaving many of the residents homeless. Firefighters had a tough time battling the blaze because of hoarding conditions inside the apartment unit, according to news accounts of the event.

Fires can happen any time but certain times of year are more dangerous. “The winter months are the peak time of the year for fire deaths,” says Marty Ahrens, a manager of fire analysis services at the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), based in Quincy, Massachusetts.

According to a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) report published last year for the years 2009 to 2011, multi-unit dwellings were responsible for close to 30 percent of all U.S. residential fires serious enough to require a call to the local fire department. Three hundred ninety-five deaths were caused by these fires, 4,250 injuries, and $1.2 billion (yes, billion!) dollars in property loss. It's just plain old common sense to have a solid prevention and evacuation plan and make sure everyone knows the details.

Formulate a Plan

Understanding legal requirements is the first step in developing a fire safety plan appropriate for each association. Most municipalities use some edition of the International Code Council's International Fire Code (IFC). The New Jersey Edition of the IFC is available free online at www2.iccsafe.org/states /06NewJerseyFire/Fire_Code/NJ_Fire_Frameset.html. For help in your own planning, check out Chapter 4, “Emergency Planning and Preparedness.”

Bill Worrall, a vice president with First Service Residential, a nationwide management firm which has offices in Eatontown and Lyndhurst, says his company has a long list of items that building staff and management need to understand when it comes to fire safety. These include the building’s plans and drawings, both electrical and plumbing. They should be on file in hard and electronic format.

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