06Jun/17

City Council to Hold Fire-Safety Hearings On HA Projects After London Tragedy

By BOB HENNELLY
Jun 19, 2017 (Updated Jun 22, 2017)
(Reprinted with the Permission of TheChiefLeader.com)
[caption id="attachment_163" align="alignleft" width="185"] INEZ BARRON: Greater risk in poorer neighborhoods.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_162" align="alignleft" width="185"] RITCHIE TORRES: London resonates in the Bronx.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_161" align="alignleft" width="127"] GLENN CORBETT: Building materials a factor.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_160" align="alignleft" width="123"] JAMES VACCA: ‘Are we prepared for something similar?’[/caption] [caption id="attachment_159" align="alignleft" width="185"] TIMOTHY BOWE: Some landlords add to the hazards.[/caption]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A mass-casualty fire at a high-rise public-housing complex in London on June 14 has prompted City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, chair of the Council’s Fire and Criminal Justice Committee, and Council Member Ritchie Torres, chair of the Public Housing Committee, to call for hearings to see whether lessons from that tragedy could be applied here.

Engulfed in 15 Minutes

At press time June 19, London fire officials had confirmed 79 deaths and 74 injuries, and officials warned that the death toll could go as high as 100. Dozens of people were still unaccounted for.

According to multiple press reports, the entire building was engulfed by fire within just 15 minutes. Residents were desperate to escape, prompting some of them to jump from their windows. In one instance, NBC News reported a mother threw her heavily blanketed baby out a nine-story window to someone on the ground who caught the infant.

Before 1 a.m. that morning, Firefighters were called to the scene at the 24-story “social housing” Grenfell Tower project in the White City district of London. It had 120 apartments that housed close to 600 people.

The heat of the fire was so intense it severely compromised what remained of the charred shell requiring that Firefighters coordinate with structural engineers the recovery phase of the response.

In the aftermath, experts flagged the cladding curtain-like covering that had been applied to the exterior of the Grenfell Tower last year as part of a multi-million-dollar building upgrade as a potential culprit for the smoke, heat, and intensity of the fire.

Aluminum/Plastic Mix

“That stuff has aluminum on the outside and a plastic core— just Google that 2015 New Year’s Eve fire at that luxury hotel in Dubai and you can see what happens with that material if the fire gets hot enough,” said Glenn Corbett, a Professor of Fire Science at John Jay College and the technical editor for Fire Engineering Magazine. “You do see some use of that material here, but in general it’s used in your one-story commercial application, like for a car dealership.”

Initial reports indicated there were no sprinklers present, and there was no central public-address system to reach tenants who were reportedly confused because they previously had been advised to follow ‘a stay-put’ or ‘shelter-in-place’ protocol in the event of a fire.

While the city’s Housing Authority projects are generally fireproofed, which means that fires stay contained in the residential unit where they start, the agency has historically had problems with the maintenance of elevators and basic emergency lighting. Last year, after the death of an 84-year-old man in an elevator in a Bronx project, a report by the Department of Investigation found “significant flaws” in how the agency responded to high-priority complaints about elevator breakdowns from residents.

“We have an obsolete public housing system and it is an area I think we need to explore,” said Councilman Torres in an interview at City Hall. “In my district in The Bronx, most of the private housing is that five- and six-story-tall multi-family older housing stock, and we need to look at these issues with this tragedy in mind.”

Last year the city reported 48 fire-related deaths, the lowest since reliable data has been compiled. The number of serious fires is also at a historical low. Yet several Council Members supported the call for hearings aimed at further improving fire safety with the London tragedy in focus.

“Even though it was in London, we must ask ourselves how is this city prepared for something like that—are there things we could address here,” to reduce the loss of life, said Council Member James Vacca.

‘Protect Other Housing’

“When I saw those pictures on the television, it was just heart-wrenching and I thought just what shortcomings played out there,” said Council Member Inez Barron. She added that she was concerned about any gap between the fire safety in newer high-rise residential buildings and the city’s older housing stock where most people live. “We should try and get those protections extended to the rest of our housing stock,” she said.

“This should alert us to the possibility of improvements we could make here with the help of relevant experts,” said Councilman Bill Perkins.

A veteran FDNY officer, who did not want his name used, told this newspaper he believed there was too much of a gap between the stringent fire-safety standards for commercial high-rise buildings and residential high-rises. “When you are responding to a job at a commercial building, you have a Fire Safety Director already on the site and the ability to communicate with each floor,” he said. “When you’re responding to a residential high-rise, you got yourself a doorman and no way to effectively talk to the tenants to give them direction.”

Toxicity Greater Now

“Fires are down, but since the 1970s, with the increased use of plastics in construction and in interiors, Firefighters are confronting more-aggressive and harder-to-fight fires that are also more toxic,” said Mr. Corbett. “And since 9/11, it’s harder to convince the public to shelter in place, as people in the World Trade Center were told to do.”

That, he continued, was why he was concerned about the fate of Council legislation that would require the retrofitting of all high-rise residential units with a public-address system to facilitate communication with residents in the event of an emergency. The proposal, which appears to have stalled, was prompted by a 2014 fatal fire in a Hell’s Kitchen residential high-rise during which a 27-year-old man attempted to leave his 32nd-floor apartment and died from smoke inhalation in the stairwell on the 31st floor.

Since the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in lower Manhattan in which 146 gar­ment workers died, it has taken mass-casualty events to spark significant upgrades of the city’s building and fire codes. Historically, the real estate industry has been successful at slowing legislation that adds additional costs.

In 1973, after two high-rise office fires that killed five people and hurt dozens, the city enacted Local Law 5 that required high-rise office buildings 10 stories or higher to have sprinkler systems, along with stair pressurization and compartmentalization to prevent the spread of fires. The real-estate industry litigated that legislation for five years.

Sprinkler Upgrade

In 1999, after two high-rise fires the year before that killed four civilians and three Firefighters, the city required most new residential buildings with four units or more to be outfitted with sprink­lers. It also mandated sprink­lers if existing units underwent significant remodeling that cost more than 50 percent of the buildings’ market value.

As significant as that bill was, Mayor Rudy Giuliani lamented, “I would like to see us go further. I don’t want us to lose the momentum that has come out of these terrible tragedies,” he said at the bill-signing.

Going back to the city’s requirement that sprinklers be installed in theaters in the 19th century, it has been a national leader in sprinkler application, according to Timothy Bowe, president of ABCO Peerless Sprinkler and the New York Mechanical Contractors Association. He said upgrades were always in response to high-profile fire tragedies, including the loss of Firefighters. A case in point would be the most recent upgrade to both the Building and Fire Codes after 9/11.

But, he said, gaps remain and universal retrofitting of sprinklers would save lives and property.

‘Enhance Apartment Safety’

“I think it would be a great way to enhance the life safety of these apartments out in the housing stock in the outer boroughs that have been there a very long time,” he said. “There is quite a bit of frame housing, and people are dying two, three at a time and nobody is paying attention to that. It is mostly for kids and older people.”

Mr. Bowe echoed the concerns of Council Member Barron about an existing disparity in fire- and life-safety measures, saying, “If you are in a Park Avenue building, you don’t have too much to worry about but if you are down in Alphabet City it is a totally different situation. And P.S., the landlords down there are chopping up spaces putting in partitions illegally, no sprinklers, and if there are sprinklers, they are not extending them. There are some horror stories down there.”

24May/17

2017 BTEA Safety Report Card

On May 10th, union construction industry executives from across the city gathered for the Building Trades Employers’ Association 2017 Construction Safety Report Card breakfast. This event featured presentations by several key stakeholders involved in New York City construction safety. The breakfast was kicked off by BTEA President & CEO Louis Coletti, who then, in turn, introduced MCA Board member and Durr Mechanical Construction, Inc. Vice President of Operations and Safety Frank Heidinger.

[caption id="attachment_140" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Safety Card 2017 MCA 01 NYC DOB Deputy Commissioner of Enforcement Tim Hogan[/caption]

Frank highlighted the hard work and efforts of the BTEA safety committee before introducing US Department of Labor and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) officials who discussed and presented statistical data from area accidents and fatalities. In addition to the report presented by OSHA, New York City Buildings Department Deputy Commissioner of Enforcement Tim Hogan offered a sobering accounting of the jobsite accidents and safety violations his office encounters.

[caption id="attachment_141" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Safety Card 2017 MCA 02 New York City Fire Department Deputy Assistant Chief Edward Ferrier and FDNY Executive Director of Fire Suppression and the Construction, Demolition and Abatement Units Louis Cendagorta[/caption]

In addition, New York City Council Housing & Buildings Chairman Jumaane Williams discussed recently enacted construction safety legislation along with legislation currently pending. The event concluded with a presentation on construction site fires by New York City Fire Department Deputy Assistant Chief Edward Ferrier and FDNY Executive Director of Fire Suppression and the Construction, Demolition and Abatement Units Louis Cendagorta.

21Dec/16

MCA Executive Vice President Talks Lessons from Oakland’s Fire Tragedy

Ghost Ship warehouseMCA Executive Vice President pens important opinion piece on the  necessity of building owners to adhere to NYC life safety code requirements. Lessons from Oakland’s fire tragedy for NYC property owners at Crains New York Business.

The recent deadly Ghost Ship warehouse blaze in Oakland was one of the worst structural fires in this country in the past decade, claiming 36 lives. As investigations move forward, one of the key questions forensic investigators will address is what safety measures could have been taken to prevent such a loss of life?

In the wake of this tragedy, there have been nationwide crackdowns on illegally occupied buildings and venues in cities including Baltimore, where dozens of artists were evicted from a building called the Bell Foundry, and Denver, where inspectors discovered fire-code violations at the popular venue Rhinoceropolis. There have also been investigations of event spaces in Nashville, Dallas, Austin, New Haven, Indianapolis and Dubuque, Iowa.

New York landlords and owners of industrial warehouse should extract sobering lessons from the Oakland calamity. Often in advance of future real estate redevelopment, such assets are leased out on a temporary basis to offset costs. Should any tenant use a space in an illegal manner or disable building or fire-safety equipment required by law, owners face stiff criminal and civil liability.

Disasters often serve as the impetus for new and strengthened regulations and enforcement. Consider the tragic New York City fires in 1975 at the Blue Angel nightclub and in 1990 at the Happy Land Social Club, which killed seven and 87 people, respectively. These devastating tolls are among the reasons for strengthened city regulations, including occupancy limits, exit signs, smoke detectors and sprinkler systems.

As Oakland officials continue their investigation, it is unclear what mandated fire protections were in place. The city of Oakland had no inspection records for 30 years of the 10,000-square foot warehouse, which apparently had been illegally converted into a residential space inhabited by artists.

The utter necessity of building inspections was brought home tragically on Dec. 18, 1998, when three FDNY firefighters were killed at a high-rise building in Brooklyn’s Starrett City where the fire sprinkler valves had illegally been shut off. Investigations and prosecutions resulted in criminal and civil penalties.

Just three days later, four more people died in a fire in an Upper West Side apartment where the family of actor Macaulay Culkin lived.

Those two tragedies led to Local Law 10, which established stricter inspection and maintenance standards and mandated fire sprinklers in multifamily dwellings with three or more units and for structures undergoing major renovations.

The Oakland fire provides an unfortunate, heart-wrenching lesson for our city’s property owners to always be vigilant and proactive about protecting tenants, regardless of a property’s current usage or value. After all, the road to implementing life-saving safety enhancements came at a grave price.

STORY SOURCE: http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20161216/OPINION/161219931

IMAGE SOURCE: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ghost_Ship_warehouse_.jpg

27Nov/16

7 Hour License Renewal Course

License Renewal: Pursuant to New York City Department of Buildings 2014 Administrative Code, Section 28-40.12 and NYC Rule section 19-02, you must complete a 7 hour license renewal course must be taken within two years prior to your New York City Master Fire Suppression Piping License renewal date. The Construction Trades License Training Corp. will offer the renewal course on November 23 and December 7.

License Renewal Course

You must register for this course on-line at nyconstructiontrades.org. The course will be held at the Construction Trades License Training Corp. and the course consists of a video presentation of the April 13, 2016 course.

30Aug/16

NYFSC to Honor John Bower Through Burn Center Foundation Donations

2017 marks our 18th year supporting the mission and amazing work of the New York Firefighters Burn Center Foundation. This year your contribution will also celebrate the life and honor the memory of

John C. Bower.

John passed away in May of this year after a valiant battle with cancer.  He took pleasure in his work in fire protection and was Executive Vice President of ABCO Peerless Sprinkler Corp. He was charitable with his time and expertise in his profession, serving as the Co-Chair of the 2008 and 2014 NYC Model Code Project Fire Protection Technical Committee and Chairman of the Mechanical Contractors Association (MCA) of NY’s New York Fire Sprinkler Council. He also served as President of the NYC Fire Museum, and was a member of the Museum Board of Trustees for over 20 years. John was also proud to be an FDNY Honorary Battalion Chief, sworn in in 2001. Having spent his entire career in the Fire Sprinkler Industry, his work directly impacted the safety and welfare of hundreds of thousands of people throughout the United States.

 

John was a sincere believer in the mission of the New York Firefighters Burn Center Foundation.  The Foundation was created when several firefighters recognized a need for a nationally renowned burn center in the New York Metropolitan area. The firefighter community responded and created the New York Firefighters Burn Center Foundation in 1975. The goal of the Foundation is to make quality burn care available to all who are seriously burned regardless of age, race, creed or economic status. Last year, the Burn Center treated over 4,000 patients. Our industry’s donations have helped to fund pediatric burn care, specialized equipment, training for the New York Presbyterian Hospital burn team, the skin bank and sending children to burn camp. With your help, we have made a tremendous impact in improving the lives and care of burn victims.

Upon conclusion of our fundraising efforts, our collective donations will be presented to the New York Firefighters Burn Center Foundation.

Please make your check payable to:

New York Firefighters Burn Center Foundation

c/o MCA of New York, Inc., 44 West 28th Street, 12th floor, New York, NY 10001

You can also donate online at www.gofundme.com/nyfsc2017

We would greatly appreciate receiving your contribution by November 10, 2017. Should you have any questions, please call our Association office or contact Melissa Barbour by email at melissa@nymca.org.  Thank you for making a difference!

23Jul/16

FDNY C of F News

FDNYPlease be advised that the New York City Fire Department is in the process of revising certain Certificate of Fitness Exams. A new study guide is available for the S-12, Supervision of Citywide Sprinkler Systems. The FDNY has also created an S-15 exam. This exam combines the S-12 certificate of fitness for citywide sprinkler systems and the newly created T-15 exam for foam sprinkler systems. All individuals performing inspections on foam sprinkler systems, must now hold a certificate of fitness to do so. Existing certificate of fitness holders with an S-12 can upgrade their certification from the S-12 to an S-15 by taking the T-15 exam.

Download the Study Materials PDF for the study guide for these exams.

08Apr/16

New Checklist for Bidding Work Under UA Residential Agreements – 4/8/2016

New Checklists for Bidding Work Under UA Residential Agreements – (4/8/2016)

1. Familiarize yourself with BOTH Residential Agreements (Attachment #1 & Attachment #2)

2. Contact Local 638 Business Agent assigned to project’s area to confirm details (Attachment #3)

3. Complete entire UA Residential Intent to Use form (Attachment #4)

4. Access NYC Dept. of Buildings’ website (www.nyc.gov/bis) to verify information and provide zoning diagram (Attachment #5)

5. Submit UA Intent to Use form and DOB Zoning Diagram at least 5 days prior to bid to the following individuals:

6. CONFIRM approval by Local 638 and submit any Target Fund Requests directly to Local 638.

7. If project is won, submit “Letter of Award” to the above emails.

Please contact the MCA of New York with any questions regarding the Residential Agreements. You can access a printable version of the check list HERE. Failure to follow the above steps can delay approval for your projects.

23Sep/15

MCA and Plumbing Foundation Join Forces to Promote Safe Construction

Tony Saporito of the MCA of New York, Inc and Stewart O’Brien of the Plumbing Foundation of NY have co-authored a piece entitled A Dangerous Lower Standard for the Commercial Observer detailing the associations’ efforts on behalf of licensed construction in the Fire Suppression and Plumbing industries.

Architectural Plans Modular Construction

Recent code interpretations by the NYC Dept. of Buildings have allowed owners to circumvent the licensing requirement when building modular construction. Innovation that promotes efficiency is always welcomed in the construction industry, but it should not come at the expense of safety.

Would you want your children and family to occupy a building whose critical life safety systems were put in place by an untrained, unlicensed worker? Or what if the hospital or nursing home your loved one was a patient in had a fire?

The NYC Building Code requires that plumbing work, including connections to domestic water supply, gas piping, medical lines, and back-flow devices in medical facilities, be performed by a licensed firm.  Similarly the Building Code also requires that fire suppression systems that automatically detect and then control, suppress, or extinguish fires, helping prevent fatal accidents, only be installed by licensed fire suppression contractors. The obvious reason is safety.

Licensed master plumbers and mechanical contracting firms are trained and qualified to ensure the city’s gas and steam piping are properly welded, so that the public is protected from leaks that lead to explosions. Does it make any sense to have two regulatory systems—one that requires certain buildings to be constructed using licensed firms and other buildings that can be constructed using unlicensed people?

Read the full article A Dangerous Lower Standard.

02Feb/15

MCA and Local 638 Sign Residential Agreements

We are pleased to announce that Local 638 and MCA have signed two new Supplements to the United Association National Agreement for Residential Construction. One covers up to 12 Stories and 200,000 square feet and one covers up to 30 stories residential and up to 40 stories hospitality and 300,000 square feet.

30 Stories Residential Agreement

Local 638 will utilize and administer use of their Target Fund for the up to 30 stories and Hospitality up to 40 stories supplement, and contractors should contact Local 638 to inquire about the Target Fund procedure. All contractors must submit the “Notice of Intent to Use Local Union 638 Addendum to the United Association Residential Agreement” Form, for all work bid under these supplements. Additionally, contractors should contact the Steamfitters Industry Fund Office to discuss the proper remittance form for work under the supplements.

These supplements will assist our industry in an effort to recapture and increase market share in the Residential Market that has been lost to non-union forces.

We believe that an aggressive approach towards bidding the work that the supplements cover will yield great benefits for signatory contractors and Local 638. We encourage you to bid those projects and make every effort to win back this market.

04Aug/14

2014-2017 TRADE AGREEMENT

We are proud to announce the 2014-2017 TRADE AGREEMENT Between ENTERPRISE ASSOCIATION LOCAL UNION 638. Steam, Hot Water, Hydraulic, Sprinkler, Pneumatic Tube, Ice Machine and General Pipe Fitters of New York and Vicinity, Local Union No. 638 of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada and MECHANICAL CONTRACTORS ASSOCIATION OF NEW YORK, INC. Effective July 1, 2014 Terminates June 30, 2017.

Trade Agreement Shaking Hands

The Association and Employers hereby recognize Steamfitters’ Local Union 638 of the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada as the sole and exclusive bargaining representative for all their employees performing any work covered by this Agreement and employed by the employer in the geographical jurisdiction of the Enterprise Association, namely, the City of New York, Nassau and Suffolk counties and all of Long Island. This Agreement together with its Working Rules shall govern all steamfitting work performed under this Agreement by any contractor party to or bound by and subject to this Agreement within the trade jurisdiction as set forth herein.

Download the 2014-2017 TRADE AGREEMENT