FROM COMPTROLLER’S OFFICE
A sampling of municipalities from across New York reveals gaps in the review of fire safety plans or evacuation procedures for public buildings such as adult care facilities, hospitals, hotels, preschools, libraries and shopping malls, according to an audit released this week by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The audit reviewed enforcement of the state’s Uniform Fire Code in seven cities and three villages.
“Local officials must do their part to keep fire safety a priority,” said DiNapoli. “By neglecting to properly implement these regulations, New Yorkers may be at risk should a fire or other emergency occur.”
The state’s fire code requires every city, county, town and village to maintain a system of records that supports its code enforcement activities. Buildings that contain an area of public assembly must be inspected each year, while all other buildings requiring a fire safety and evacuation plan must have a fire safety inspection at least every three years.
The code outlines the minimum requirements needed to establish good practices for protecting people and property from the hazards of fire, explosion and dangerous conditions in new and existing buildings. It also provides for safety to firefighters and other first responders during emergency operations.
DiNapoli’s auditors visited 96 buildings and found 73, or 76 percent of those reviewed, did not have a fire safety plan on file that met the minimum fire code requirements. Of those, 44 (46 percent) did not have an evacuation plan on file that complied with the fire code. In addition, 54 buildings (56 percent) did not conduct the required number of evacuation drills.
The audit revealed that officials from five municipalities in the sample do not review or approve fire plans or evacuation plans. Seven municipalities do not confirm that building evacuation drills are performed.
DiNapoli made several recommendations to each municipality. They included:
· Identify which buildings must have a fire plan and evacuation plan, as well as those that must conduct evacuation drills;
· Review and approve all fire plans and evacuation plans in accordance with the fire code;
· Keep documented evidence detailing when fire plans and evacuation plans were reviewed and approved;
· Ensure that buildings requiring a fire plan and evacuation plan have plans that meet the minimum fire code requirements; and
· Determine whether the required number of drills are conducted in accordance with the fire code and maintain documented evidence of these reviews.
The municipalities included in the audit sample were the cities of Ithaca, North Tonawanda, Plattsburgh, Poughkeepsie, Rome, Saratoga Springs and White Plains, and the villages of Lindenhurst, Hempstead and Patchogue.