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Fire exits

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Fire exits

Postby yourguide » Tue Oct 17, 2006 5:58 pm

Hi there. I am in a new 4 story (plus basement) 9 apartment building in brooklyn. We are on the 3rd floor with no fire escapes. Last night we found out our landlord padlocked the roof exit which leaves us with just the front door for egress. Is this a violation of fire code? I know there is another door in the basement but I cant remember if that is padlocked as well. Essentially anyone above the second floor would be screwed if a first floor apartment caught fire. I beleive there are a total of 14 or 15 tenants in the building if that makes any difference...

Thanks for any input...
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Postby Aubergine » Tue Oct 17, 2006 11:19 pm

Call 311 and ask to report this violation to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). In addition, you might contact the Fire Department by visiting your local firehouse and reporting the problem.
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Postby yourguide » Wed Oct 18, 2006 9:08 am

Thanks so much...so is padlocking the roof indeed a violation of code?
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Postby TenantNet » Wed Oct 18, 2006 9:15 am

Check the Housing Maintenence Code and the Multiple Dwelling Law, both of which are on TenantNet.

Every unit is required to have two means of egress. I believe exceptions are made when the units and/or building have a sprinkler system. (what constitutes "adequate" is probably more complex). Most often apartments have fire escapes. There are probably special rules for highrises above a certain floor.

For buildings, I also believe there are requirements for two means of egress, but that should be double-checked. That may depend on how old the building is and the nature of the lot.

More often than not, an exit to a building's roof may be considered an exit if it leads to fire escapes elsewhere on the building. In such cases, padlocking the roof door should be illegal. Some owners, however, will make that exit a fire door with alarm, meaning you can exit with a crash bar (and set off an alarm), but being self-closing you would not be able to re-enter. This might be for security reasons (or so they would say). Such arrangements are probably legal, but padlocking the door, in my opinion, is not legal.
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Postby Anna » Wed Oct 18, 2006 9:27 am

padlock = illegal and very dangerous: see HMC and MDL.
crashbar w/alarm = legal, usually.

call LL asap: if LL refuses to immediately remove the padlock, call your local Fire Station. FDNY will send over a truck or two; firefighters with axes and bolt cutters etc will arrive shortly to destroy padlock. Or at least, this was the result in a nearby rowhouse a few years ago... [quite a sight to watch!]
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Postby yourguide » Wed Oct 18, 2006 9:47 am

Thanks for all of the input. I did check the multiple dwelling law but it looks like it's for over a certain number of apartments so I am not certain it pertains to my building. The other issue is there is in fact a basement door as well as the front door. So that basement door would be a secondary means of egress, however it does nothing for anyone floor 2 or higher if there is a fire in one of the ground floor apartments or the basement. I would have no problem with a crash bar but without fire escapes a padlocked roof exit has me freaked out.

I will call DHP and see about filing an anonymous complaint. I want no retailation from my LL.

Thanks all!
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Postby TenantNet » Wed Oct 18, 2006 10:22 am

Just remember that the egress requirements for an individual apartment may be (and usually are) different than the egress requirements for the entire building (or portions). The latter may depend on how many units and floors in the building, and the width and length of the path to the point of egress and the nature of construction and whether or not other devices exist such as sprinklers. In my memory, the Fire Dept. can and will come to a building and idicate what is required and what is legal or not.
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Postby yourguide » Wed Oct 18, 2006 7:44 pm

Update: called the fire department. I was told point blank that the padlock is illegal. They gave me a number for a division that handles it, apparently the complaints department for the FDNY in brooklyn (and I can call anonymously) and said they would send a truck out to check it out.

Just in case you are in brooklyn and need that number it's 718-999-2542

Thanks again all. I plan to be at work when the fire department shows ;-)
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