NYC to Update Century-Old Fire Code

New York City fire officials have finalized a draft that will revise the city’s fire code, which is almost a century old. The new code aims to help prevent chemical accidents and fires in the city, making it safer for businesses, workers and the public.

FDNY Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta made the announcement Dec. 5, following a three-year project to review and update safety standards throughout the five boroughs.

While the current fire code establishes standards and requirements for fire safety in the city, the proposed code would reflect national fire safety standards, while incorporating various existing fire safety requirements that address the nature of New York’s urban environment. The new code, which is based on the International Fire Code – published by the International Codes Council Inc., will focus attention on new fire safety technology and encourage an ongoing evaluation of the New York’s fire code.

The changes will require the businesses to notify the New York Fire Department where and how they are storing a long list of flammable chemicals including gasoline, diesel fuel and other types of chemicals. In certain cases, the revised fire code calls for more worker training in buildings.

In addition, buildings that are able to house more than 500 people are required to submit a fire safety and evacuation plan. Fire fighters will also need to have immediate access to building rooftops, according to the 476-page report.

CSB Praised Fire Code Revision

The provisions to control hazardous chemicals in the revised fire code was called for by the Chemical Safety and Investigation Board (CSB) back in September 2003, when it issued its final report on the April 25, 2002 explosion at commercial sign maker Kaltech Industries.

The blast, which happened moments after two workers were improperly transferring liquid hazardous waste from one container to another in the company’s basement in Chelsea, injured 36 people, including 14 members of the public and six firefighters.

According to the CSB report, New York City fire code did not adequately cover such hazards.

CSB Board Member and interim executive William E. Wright said the code is was needed to ensure that such incidents don’t occur again.

“I think the adoption and use of a modern fire code will make New York a safer place to work and live,” he stated.

The new fire code is proposed to take effect on July 1, 2008.

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