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
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
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
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."