You’ve come to this site and you’ve probably seen our videos. You can see the benefit of SkySaver, however, you, like many others are probably thinking “What about my fire escape? I can just get out that way, with no need to use a SkySaver.” While that it is true that many buildings have fire escapes, we will get into the reason why they are not the best option (at least until you assure their safety). As stated over and over, SkySaver is a LAST RESORT. Obviously, if you have another way of getting out of your building, you should utilize that. There are times, however, when your fire escape is not the best option. This definitely applies when fire is blocking your path to it. Maybe the window gets stuck. Maybe you are not close enough to it in order to make the decision to escape that way, as it may be to risky. These situations (assuming the front door is unusable as well) would be ones where SkySaver would come in handy. But, how does one check if a fire escape is safe to use? What are the safety regulations for fire escapes?
In August 2015, actor Kyle Jean-Baptiste, known for his role on Broadway in Les Miserables as Jean Valjean, tragically fell to his death from a fourth-floor fire escape. His death was ruled an accident. This incident is very indicative of the state of many fire escapes throughout the city of New York. The National Fire Protection Association, all the way back in 1914 said that fire escapes were often difficult to reach, badly maintained, and poorly designed. They said that they often were blocked by the possessions of the residents and lacked ladders from the second floor to the ground. Originally, in 1911, a law was enacted after the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, that all office and factory buildings built after October 1st,1913, required fire escapes. In 1968 the New York City building code was updated. It banned fire escapes from any new dwellings, favoring methods like interior stairwells and sprinkler systems. More and more older buildings are removing them as well, due to both safety concerns and aesthetics. In April 2015, Jim Long, FDNY spokesman said “Those fire escapes are going the way of the dinosaur.”
Here are a few tips regarding inspecting your fire escape to make sure it is safe to use. If one does have a fire escape in his or her building, make sure of the following; there is direct access to it, the window leading to it opens quickly and easily, if there are metal bars or a security gate on the window, to have them approved by the Fire Department of the City of New York, and that any personal possessions (such as a grill or drying clothes) are not on the fire escape, thus making it more difficult to escape in an emergency situation. Doing such warrants a misdemeanor charge, as it is unlawful. Good maintenance is key. A rickety structure or broken steps are noncompliant with the law. Make sure there is no buildup of snow or ice on your fire escape during the winter as well.
As mentioned in many previous blog posts about making sure you have the right items in your home, maintaining your composure during an emergency situation, creating an action emergency plan, how to behave during a fire, and more, proper knowledge of your fire escape (if you have one) and its capability of being used is paramount BEFORE an emergency happens. Not during or after, but before. Not doing so can result in potentially fatal consequences. Lastly, to reiterate, SkySaver should be a last resort. If you have a perfectly maintained fire escape and the window has a clear path, by all means, use it. However, if your path to the fire escape is blocked off, as well as the path to the entrance to your apartment, trust SkySaver to take you to safety.
See this link for more information on fire escape law in New York City: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dob/downloads/rules/1_RCNY_15-10.pdf
Barak Bacharach, SkySaver Content Manager