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The Gate Without a Key

Boards take note: if your building has fire escapes, window security is an issue. And if a window facing a fire escape has metal bars or a security gate, these must be devices approved by the Fire Department of New York, which requires that they can be opened from the inside without a key.

“They have to have a quick-release latch,” says Michael Mintz, CEO of MD Squared Management. “The board should be aware of what kind of gates are in place, because there is a risk to the building.”

“We check that they are the proper gates when they install them,” says David Goodman, a management executive at Tudor Realty. “This is serious business. If there were a fire and somebody got hurt, the building’s insurance company would take a very dim view.”

In fact, says Barbara Strauss, executive vice president at the insurance brokerage York International, the property could end up having its policy canceled. “The insurance company is going to defend the claim, but they’re going to be pretty pissed about it,” she says.

“The whole thing is unfortunate because you’re saying that the board is responsible, even though it is actually the individual shareholder’s responsibility to install the proper gate,” says Goodman. “The issue is not the gate itself – it’s how it locks. It’s OK as long as it is not a key-operated lock. If a fire breaks out, you don’t have to go search for the key to get out.”

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