NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A New York City lawmaker is proposing a new fire-safety requirement for high-rise apartment houses after a playwright died trying to flee a blaze in his building.
City Councilman Corey Johnson unveiled the proposal Monday.
He said the measure would require buildings taller than six stories to have emergency public address systems so first responders and building managers can communicate better with residents.
“The initial meat of the bill is to make sure there are communication systems installed in buildings over six stories tall,” Johnson said at a press conference on the steps of City Hall Monday. “To let folks know whether or not they should stay or go in case of an emergency.”
Johnson said it’s a simple fix that could help prevent future tragedies.
“Buildings right now install new wiring for Internet, and cable television and phone systems,” Johnson told 1010 WINS. “It would be really easy to retrofit buildings to include this which could save lives.”
The Fire Department had no immediate response.
Writer Daniel McClung, 27, was overcome by smoke in a stairwell after fleeing his 38th-floor Hell’s Kitchen apartment Jan. 5, when flames swept through a unit 18 floors below. His husband was critically injured.
Former FDNY Commissioner Thomas Von Essen said the best advice is to stay in your apartment in case of a fire. He said a PA system may have saved McClung’s life.
“The ability to communicate would allow that fire chief who is the incident commander, the first one to get there, he’d get on the phone and he’d say ‘get out of the stairwell, stay in your apartment.’ Just a simple thing like that would’ve prevented this death,” Von Essen said at the press conference. “When you’re in that panic, I’ve seen how people react when they’re afraid and they don’t always think logically. They really do need some timely advice.”
Councilman Johnson echoed Von Essen’s statement, CBS 2’s Emily Smith reported.
“Daniel’s like could have been saved if he had stayed in his apartment but he wasn’t given the proper instructions when the fire broke out,” Johnson said.
A friend of the men also said he’s joining in the effort to turn the tragedy into a potentially life-saving measure.
Javier Morgado was working at CNN gathering information on a fire in the building where he knew his friends lived.
“I had been trying to text them to make sure that they were OK,” Morgado told WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman. “They had no means of knowing what was going on.”
“What we’re asking for is speakers in stairwells that are meant to be emergency egress,” said Morgado. “Hopefully it’ll be something where lives will never perish the way that these did.”
Morgado’s petition has thousands of signatures.
Fire officials have said residents would have been safe staying in their apartments because of the building’s fireproof design. But some may not have known that.
“Unfortunately when people are afraid they don’t react to the four page instruction sheet they read four years ago. They scared and run,” Van Essen said.
It will be up to the city council to determine whether to extend the law concerning emergency public address systems to residential buildings. It can also be done through state legislation.
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