3RCNY 401-06 Fire and Emergency Preparedness Guide and Notices

Adopted Rules: Closed to Comments

Agency:
Effective Date: 
Monday, October 1, 2018
Download Copy of Adopted Rule (.pdf): 

 

Statement of Basis and Purpose of Final Rule

 

Background

 

Since 2000, New York City has required apartment building owners to print and distribute residential fire safety guides to apartment building residents and building staff, and to post fire safety notices on the inside of dwelling unit entrance doors and in building lobbies.  The purpose of these fire safety guides and notices is to:

 

·      promote fire safety and fire prevention in apartment buildings;

·      educate residents and building staff about the design and construction of their building, including construction type, fire protection systems and means of egress; and

·      outline emergency procedures to assist them in the event that they are confronted by a fire and need to determine what action to take to protect themselves and their families.

 

The format, content, distribution and posting requirements for the fire safety guide and notices were incorporated into the 2008 Fire Code (in FC408.9) and in Fire Department rule 3 RCNY §408‑02, which the rule now amends.

 

New Fire and Emergency Preparedness Guide

 

The 2014 Fire Code comprehensively revised Chapter 4, which governs emergency planning and preparedness, and moved the fire safety guide and notice requirements to FC401.6.  The 2014 Fire Code expanded the scope of the guide to encompass non-fire emergencies, such as medical emergencies, severe weather emergencies, power outages, hazardous materials releases, and terrorism-related incidents.

 

This rule would implement the 2014 Fire Code by replacing the existing Fire Safety Guide with a new Fire and Emergency Preparedness Guide (“FEP Guide”) entitled “New York City Apartment Building Emergency Preparedness Guide” (Appendix 1 to the renumbered §401‑06). Like its predecessor, the FEP Guide consists of two parts. Part I is the Building Information Section, a form completed by the owner for each building indicating the building’s construction, fire protection systems, means of egress and other information specific to the building for which it is prepared.  The rule would not substantially change the existing content requirements for this obligation, except to require the owner to indicate whether there is an emergency voice communication system in the building.

 

Part II of the FEP Guide is designed to educate all building occupants about ways to prepare for emergencies, prevent fires, and protect themselves from various fire and non-fire emergencies.  In addition, the FEP Guide emphasizes emergency preparedness planning for persons with functional or access needs who will need assistance if they must evacuate the building in an emergency.  During most non-fire emergencies, the elevator is available to evacuate persons unable to walk down stairs without assistance, and in modern buildings of non‑combustible construction, all residents are generally advised to shelter in place during the fire.  The Guide explains the importance of developing an individualized evacuation plan and a network of supports who can assist persons with functional or access needs in the event of an emergency in which they need to evacuate and they cannot use the elevator, such as in the case of a fire in their apartment.

 

Revised FEP Guide Distribution Requirements

 

Currently, the Fire Safety Guide must be provided to apartment building residents at time of occupancy (when they first move into the building) and must be distributed again every year.  The Fire Department proposes to require distribution of the new FEP Guide at time of occupancy and again as part of a building-wide distribution every three years.  During the off-years, the rule would require building owners to distribute a short informational bulletin (4 pages or less), which would be used to highlight and reinforce an important, timely fire safety or other emergency preparedness message.  This would take advantage of an opportunity to communicate lessons learned or other message when the issue is fresh in the public’s mind because of a recent fire or other incident. The informational bulletin will remind apartment building residents to familiarize themselves with the contents of the FEP Guide and advise them on how to obtain a copy if they have not received one.

 

Additionally, the Fire Department proposes to authorize electronic distribution of the FEP Guide (by email or other form of electronic transmission) to apartment residents and building staff.  This would encourage development of electronic communications between owners and residents that can be used for other emergency preparedness communications and in actual emergencies.

 

 

Other Considerations

 

The rule would not change the fire safety notices (Appendix 2 to the renumbered §401‑06) that building owners are required to post.

 

Response to Public Comments

 

Public comment was received suggesting that the public will not read a lengthy booklet and the Fire Department should only require that it be made available upon request.  The Fire Department declines to adopt this suggestion.  The information presented in the Guide directly relates to individual safety and is something every New Yorker should know.  The Fire Department has endeavored to make the Guide more reader-friendly and, using modern electronic communications, more accessible and easier to distribute.  Placing the Guide in the hands of the millions of New Yorkers who live in apartment buildings ensures the widest access to this information and the greatest likelihood that that the information will be disseminated.  The fact that not every person will read it does not argue for limiting its distribution.

 

Public comment was received inquiring as to the timeframe for compliance with the rule, given that the rule requires distribution of the Fire and Emergency Preparedness Guide in October or January.  The Fire Department has adopted this rule effective October 1, 2018, but in response to this concern, states in the Notice of Adoption that the time for compliance with the distribution requirement for the 2018-2019 cycle (only) is extended to April 30, 2019.

Public comment was received indicating that owners should be able to distribute the guide to building residents with whom they have email communications, without having to formally elect to receive the guide in that manner.  The rule has been revised to allow email transmission to any building resident who has provided an email address for the purpose of receiving building-related email communications.

 

In response to a request to specify a date by which the Fire Department will post the annual fire safety bulletins, the rule has been revised to specify August 15th of every year.

 

With respect to retention and recordkeeping, the Fire Department notes that it is only requiring retention of recordkeeping for the Guide to two distribution cycles, not three, as previously, although the retention period is longer.  The term “approved” enables the Department to enforce clear and reliable recordkeeping and typically does not require any formal submission to the Department.

 

Various comments were received from an organization that advocates for the disabled.  These include the following assertions:

 

  • The Guide and fire safety notices are not available in large print.

 

A large print Guide will be posted on the Fire Department’s website, and reference to posting a large print notice has been included in the rule. The Fire Department will also post an accessible PDF version of the Guide.

 

The rule does not limit the size of fire safety notices.  The owner can prepare a large-type fire safety notice to accommodate the needs of a person with limited vision.  In addition, by allowing the Guide to be emailed to apartment residents, the Guide can be read using screen viewer technology by persons who are blind or have low vision.

 

  • The Guide relies on the kindness of neighbors and family members.

 

Response: The Guide relies on establishing a network of supports to facilitate timely evacuation by building residents.  The comment fails to recognize that in apartment buildings other resources frequently are not available.  Many apartment buildings do not have staff or have a limited staff presence.

 

In a fire (the most likely circumstance in which immediate evacuation may be required), building staff may not be in close proximity or able to provide assistance to all building residents and/or may themselves need to evacuate.  Promoting false reliance is the least desirable course of action.  Even in office buildings, reliance is generally placed primarily on work colleagues to assist persons with limited mobility or other physical limitations.  As this Guide encourages residents to communicate their needs to building management, the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) will be amending its ABCs of Housing Guide to encourage owners and building residents to discuss emergency preparedness and building evacuation issues, as outlined in the Guide.

 

  • The Guide fails to address provision of evacuation devices or training individuals to use them.

 

Response:  The Guide makes mention of the availability of evacuation devices and notes that one may wish to consider keeping a lightweight travel wheelchair or evacuation chair in one’s apartment as part of an individual’s emergency preparedness plan.  The Emergency Preparedness Resources Section of the Guide references informational materials regarding the use of such devices.

 

  • The Guide fails to mandate certain design requirements for building egress, fire alarm and communication systems.

 

Response: The Guide addresses building construction, means of egress and fire protection systems in order to inform apartment residents’ response to emergencies.  The Building Code governs building design and systems and its accessibility provisions are generally beyond the scope of the Guide.

 

  • The Guide does not address use of elevators or notice to building residents of elevator shutdowns.

 

Response: The Guide does address the use (and non-use) of elevators.  In most emergencies, building residents are advised to remain in the building, and in most non‑fire emergencies, elevators are available for use.

 

Notice requirements relating to elevator shutdowns are established by HPD.  The Guide references the fact that owners are required to post notices, but more importantly encourages building residents to establish communications with the owner to ensure that they are made aware whenever elevators may be taken out of service.

 

  • The active shooter advice is inapplicable to persons in wheelchairs.  Building owners should develop other procedures to address such scenarios.

 

Response:  The comment is incorrect.  The actions recommended by the Guide with respect to active shooter emergencies (“Avoid, Barricade, Confront”) is applicable to all persons, including persons in wheelchairs.  The guidance addresses situations that both able-bodied and persons with disabilities may encounter, including the inability to safely leave an area.

 

  • City shelters should be open in any emergency, not just coastal storms.

 

Response: The City’s provision of shelters is generally too incident-specific to include in the Guide.  The Guide references the availability of City shelters during a coastal storm because such shelters are operated whenever area evacuations are ordered.  Public announcements and/or individual notification will be made when shelter is available during other emergencies.  The Guide has been revised to make reference to such announcements and notifications.

 

  • Persons may not have the financial resources to maintain readiness supplies. 

                             

Response: The Guide is an informational document designed to inform individual emergency preparedness planning and responses.  Individual financial resources or other means to obtain these items is beyond the scope of the Guide.

 

  • Persons should not be separated from their service animals and it is “unrealistic” to expect people to carry photos of their service animals in case of separation.

 

Response: The Guide references both pets and service animals.  Whether persons would be separated from service animals is beyond the scope of the Guide, but it is a reasonable precaution to keep a photograph of a service animal in a phone or wallet (as pet owners commonly do with their pets) if that circumstance arises.  The Fire Department disagrees with the comment that this is an unrealistic requirement.

 

  • The Guide should clarify that registering with a utility company as a person on life-sustaining equipment is for notification purposes only and does not mean they will receive assistance with building evacuation.

 

Response: The Guide states that a person listed as a life-sustainingequipment (LSE) customer will be contacted in the event of a power emergency.  This is the wording from a utility website and does not imply any further assistance.