Seen At 11: Parks Department Under Fire Over Absence Of Smoke Alarms In Rec Centers

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Whether we’re at home or out and about, most of assume that when it comes to fire safety, state of the art alarms will protect us.

A CBS2 investigation found that some recreation centers run by the city’s parks department don’t have working fire alarms, and that has some worried about potential disaster.

Smoke detectors and alarms save thousands of lives each year, which is why they’re required in all schools, restaurants, movie theaters, and most public gathering places by New York City law.

Some recreation centers where children play each day don’t have working fire alarm systems, a CBS2 investigation found.

“The parks department should look into that as soon as possible, especially while I have my daughter going there to the pool, definitely,” Abraham Graves said.

In September of 2015, four recreation centers received violations for not following fire codes.

The Asser Levy, Hansborough, and Tony Dapolito centers in Manhattan, and the Metropolitan Center in Brooklyn were all cited.

The violations were deemed serious, but two years later, only the Metropolitan and Hansborough have repaired their systems.

CBS2 has learned that after an internal review three additional centers don’t have working fire alarms.

“The parks department needs to take this seriously,” fire expert Glenn Corbett said.

Corbett, a former assistant fire chief and professor of fire science at John Jay College said it’s a disaster waiting to happen.

“This is a life and death situation,” he said. “This is a significant problem for the park’s department and for the people that go into those buildings. This is something that needs to be fixed.”

In a statement, a parks department spokesperson told CBS2, “NYC Parks recreation centers are in full compliance with FDNY fire safety guidelines.”

Technically, that’s true, but it’s complicated. All of the five centers were built before fire alarms were required. Three of them installed alarms anyway, two did not, and all of the centers now have fireguards — someone certified in fire safety who patrols the area looking for fire. That’s acceptable while systems are being repaired.

“They’re there in case of emergencies. They would be able to direct people out of the building. They would check the building, they would make sure it’s safe to be occupied,” FDNY spokesman James Leonard said.

Geoffry Croft of New York City Parks Advocates, said it’s just not enough.

“The public has an expectation when they get delivered into a public building that obviously they’ll be fire alarms and relying on human beings as fire guards is ridiculous,” he said.

The parks department said it doesn’t know how long it will take to repair or install the alarms, but as long as fire guards patrol they are up to code.

Fire officials agree.

“We feel that these buildings are safe, though if we felt it was unsafe we would not allow them. We would vacate the building,” Leonard said.

The parks department refused an on camera interview. They said there are plans to fix or install alarms at all five centers, and that how long it takes depends on the size and complexity of the site.

 

 

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