I have been getting a lot of calls and emails recently about the stepped-up efforts of local fire marshals throughout the state who are demanding that long-standing life safety requirements be implemented NOW.
The Life Safety Code (NFPA-1 and NFPA-101) is a national code that has been adopted by all 50 states. While most people do not deny the benefits of life safety systems for multifamily structures, the question on everyone's mind is why local officials seem to have chosen the most inopportune time financially to start enforcing rules that have been on the books for years.
Some of the items condominiums and cooperatives are being told they must have are:
1. Fire doors in the hallways;
2. Hard-wired smoke detectors in the units as opposed to battery-operated detectors;
3. Master keys for elevators;
4. Handrails, updated signage and recall to the first floor in elevators;
5. Generators; and
6. Sprinkler systems in the common areas.
At times, the local fire marshals and elevator inspectors seem to have a loose grasp on the Code sections they cite and vary what they are asking for depending on the level of resistance they encounter. Many are telling high-rise associations they must place sprinklers in areas they deem are common but are not listed as such in 718. Others have sent mixed signals to various associations within the same geographical area. As a result, there is currently a lot of confusion and fear.
With so many associations caught in the grip of growing delinquencies and delayed foreclosures, it would be reasonable to expect local fire marshals and elevator inspectors to show a little mercy before asking for all their "wish list" items right now. Associations receiving those calls and citations from the City should check with their association attorney to review their options. It might take one brave association to put up a real legal fight to see if a delay in implementation or perhaps an exemption is available to them.
So, has the fire marshal or City inspector come knocking on your door lately?