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Dec 10

Are you safe?

Having worked in the door & hardware industry for 18 years, I am passionate about fire and life safety.  I am registered with google keywords to receive an email every time the term “fire door” makes it in the news.  Unfortunately, most of those emails bring tragic news.  And even more unfortunate is the fact that these tragedies could have been avoided if there was more awareness about the role of fire doors.

The purpose of a fire door is to reduce the spread of fire and smoke throughout compartments of a building and to help provide safe egress from the building.  A fire door must be closed and latched in its frame to be effective.

Let’s say that a fire starts in a hotel room.  The occupant runs out of the room and the door automatically closes and latches behind him.  Within moments the fire alarm sounds and alerts other occupants so the building can be evacuated as well as Fire Rescue personnel.   The fire is raging but the room’s fire protection system is holding allowing occupants time to reach safety.

But what if the door didn’t close and latch? You may remember some pictures I posted a few weeks ago of a hotel room door that had no closing device.  What if a fire had started in that room?  Would you be safe if you were in the room next door?

Back in January there was a tragic story about a woman who was killed in the elevator of a Chicago apartment building.  A fire had started in an apartment on the 12th floor of a 21 floor building.  When the tenants fled the apartment, they left their door intentionally propped open for their cat to escape.  The door being propped open allowed the fire to spread rapidly.

Unaware that a fire engulfed her floor Shantel McCoy, 32 got in the elevator to return to her apartment. She was overwhelmed by smoke and flames when the elevator doors opened.

Residential buildings built before 1975 in Chicago are not required to have a building-wide alarm or sprinkler system due to exorbitant retrofit costs.  The elevators did not stop working with just the smoke alarm.  Residents above and below the 12th floor reported that they didn’t hear any alarms.

Deputy District Fire Chief Joseph Roccasalva emphasized that the fleeing couple’s decision to prop their apartment door open to let their pets escape “doomed” Shantel McCoy.

Are you safe? Do your know your apartment buildings emergency capabilities/procedures?  How about the office building where you work?

Often when staying in a hotel I request a room close to the exit stairs, in movie theaters I pick aisle seats and I’m always searching for exit signs when in large crowds.  Sometimes just being aware and having an exit strategy may be the difference between life and death.

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