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. 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.

“We all think it will never happen to us. But it can and does,” says Gael Mennecke, executive director of The Association of Condominium, Townhouse & Homeowners Associations (ACTHA), an educational resource group in Chicago.

According to a 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. “Having a readiness plan in place is just plain common sense,” Mennecke says. “Association boards should develop one and regularly communicate with residents on procedures should a disaster ensue.”

Formulate a Plan

The first step in developing a fire-safety plan appropriate for your association is understanding the legal requirements. Keith S. Frangiamore, a certified fire protection specialist of Fire Safety Consultants, Inc. (FSCI) in Elgin, Illinois, tells us, “Dependent on the city or town, there are various requirements. Most municipalities use some edition of the International Code Council's International Fire Code (IFC), and the City of Chicago has its own fire-prevention code. The IFC has a Chapter 4 titled 'Emergency Planning and Preparedness.' The requirements in this chapter are broken down by occupancy, and it also has specific requirements for high-rise buildings.”

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