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Conference Highlights

Publication Date: Spring 1996

CNYC proudly presents its Cooperative Housing Conference each autumn. With product exhibits to visit from early in the morning, a video theater showing Co-op Roundtable throughout the day, and scores of workshops and seminars, the Conference brings together hundreds of CNYC members for a day of learning and sharing.The 16th Annual Cooperative Housing Conference will be held on Sunday, November 17th. Many of the workshops that will be offered are described in articles in this Newsletter, and the Conference brochure can be found facing page 8. A modification in CNYC's membership fees now entitles each member cooperative or condominium to send one person to the Conference at no cost.The member registration fees (particularly for those who sign up early) are so reasonable that your cooperative or condominium will probably want to send a team of board members, potential board members and key maintenance and management staff to this important event.Reviewed below is a presentation on Admissions Policy from a recent Cooperative Housing Conferences:


FIREFIGHTER ADVISES ON FIRE PREVENTION & SAFETY

Agood fire-prevention program in your cooperative or condominium will not only save lives, but could also save a great deal of money -- before a fire ever occurs. According to James J. Lanza, a firefighter and president of the board of a large cooperative complex in Queens, the fire department makes an attempt to inspect all residential buildings annually. He warned that fines for any uncorrected violations can quickly add up.

"As a fireman, I really don't like to hand out violations, especially if it's just because the board or owner didn't know any better," said Lanza. "But the fact is that the violations exist, and they have to be written, and that means you should know what's going on in your building."

 

INSPECT YOUR BUILDING
One way to get on top of fire prevention is to appoint a buildings and grounds committee, which should be responsible for inspecting for fire hazards and potential violations. Lanza noted that his co-op has had one for several years, and the building is fire safe and fine free. Of course, it helps that the co-op has Lanza on the board. But, he explained, you can get a copy of the Multiple Dwelling Instruction and Inspection forms, the checklist that fire inspectors use, from your local fire department.

"It helps to be one step ahead of the inspectors," he said. "It makes my job as a firefighter a lot easier."

When inspecting, you should start in the basement, looking for loose debris, oily rags and stacks of paper. Carelessly strung extension cords can be a trip hazard, as well as the source of an electrical fire due to overloaded lines. There should be a filled sand bucket or operating fire extinguisher in the boiler room, and an emergency shut-off switch located on the wall outside the boiler room -- in case you cannot gain access to the boiler in a fire.

Upstairs, make sure there is ample lighting in hallways, so that people can find their way to exits. Many newer buildings have emergency lighting in stairwells, with a back-up generator or battery packs in case the main power is cut off. Also post exit signs where they can be easily seen.

SMOKE DETECTORS SAVE LIVES
Each apartment should have an operating smoke detector. "You'll see a lot of people taking out their smoke detectors' batteries because the alarms go off when they cook," said Mr. Lanza. "One way around that is to have additional smoke detectors in each bedroom. That way, you can shut the doors when you're cooking." He noted that smoke detectors cost less than $10 apiece, so "there's really no excuse not to have at least one."

Another safety device is a carbon monoxide detector, which costs about $40 and sounds an alarm when carbon monoxide levels become dangerously high. "These are best for the apartments right above the boiler," said Mr. Lanza. "I was in a building where you could actually see the soot coming out of the boiler room, up the air shaft, and into an apartment." Higher floors might not need the protection of a carbon monoxide detector, he said.

GET A FIRE EXTINGUISHER
Each apartment should also have its own fire extinguisher -- another inexpensive item. "You might have fire extinguishers or fire hoses in your hallways, but residents shouldn't assume that they'll be working when they need them," he said.

There are several models of apartment-size extinguishers, including those for grease fires in the kitchen, he noted, adding that you should replace your extinguisher when the built-in indicator turns from green to red. "You can have them refilled, but it's probably cheaper just to buy a new one." For safety reasons, consult your superintendent or managing agent before disposing of any old fire extinguishers. During apartment renovations, it is important to make sure all hallways and other common areas are kept clear of debris -- for fire and other safety/liability reasons.

The roof is a potential minefield of violations and fire hazards. For one, the door leading to the roof should never be locked with a key or combination mechanism. The only legal door locks are panic bars that open when pressed from the inside, or latches. "You don't want to have to find the guy with the key when you're trying to escape a fire," said Mr. Lanza, explaining that firemen routinely open the roof door first to allow smoke and heat to escape from the building. "We can spend five minutes trying to break a lock, or we can open it right away. And that's when time is really important."

Loose cables or antenna wires on the roof are also a violation, as are any wires strung lower than 10 feet from the roof surface (although clothes lines are allowed in out-of-the-way areas). This is so firefighters won't trip or run headlong into a wire. Also check the fire escapes for rust, damage and loose bolts, as well as plants, barbecues, or any other obstructions. These are all serious violations. Residents should not have any air conditioners installed in fire escape windows -- also a serious matter.

"Take a walk all the way down your fire escape once a year, and make sure it's in compliance," said Mr. Lanza. "It's what the fire inspectors will do when they visit your building, so any time you can get there before they do, you're definitely in better shape."

 
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