HABITAT

BUILDING OPERATIONS

New Rules for Safety Signs on Co-op and Condo Doors

Marianne Schaefer in Building Operations on July 13, 2017

New York City

Safety Signs

July 13, 2017 — Fire Department rules designed to assist first responders.

The to-do lists for co-op and condo boards just keep on growing. Here’s the latest addition: the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) has passed a rule that requires multi-family dwellings to place reflective signs on all apartment and stairwell doors to assist first responders in the event of a fire or other emergency. Buildings with apartments with more than one floor (duplexes and triplexes) had to comply by March 30 of this year; buildings with only single-level apartments will have to comply by March 30, 2018.

“So far we’ve installed these signs in more than 50 co-op and condo buildings,” says Evan Lipstein, president of the New York-based Hyline Safety Company. “Boards understand the advantages of this new law, but they’re usually worried that those signs will clash with their carefully designed hallway décor. This is why we’re now making custom designed signs that will integrate much better with the existing décor and are still in compliance with the new law.”

These mandatory signs must meet very specific standards. As a supplement to the apartment number now at eye level on every door, the new signs bearing the apartment number must be placed on the door jamb where the hinges are, no higher than 12 inches from the floor. “This is to assist firefighters in smoky conditions when they have to crawl along the floor,” Lipstein says. These signs will also indicate if the apartment is a duplex or a triplex, if there is more than one entrance, and which is the primary entrance. A sign reading EXIT must be similarly positioned on all stairwell doors. Lastly, signs directing first responders to apartments, by number or letter, must be placed on hallway walls at eye level opposite stairwell doors.

“There are only certain types of materials permitted for those signs,” says Lipstein. “One is photo-luminescent – a fancy word for glow in the dark – and the other is retro-reflective, and that is a highly reflective material used by construction workers and on fancy sneakers.” The FDNY allows the background of the signs to match the color of walls and doors, but the characters must be reflective.

Albina Piroli, of Orb Management, is the property manager at the 126-unit condo at 205 Second Avenue, where the board contracted with Hyline to install the mandated emergency signs. “We thought it was actually a really great idea and would increase the safety of our building,” Piroli says. “But the board felt that we should get a custom design to integrate it better in our décor. Our hallways are yellow and beige, and the design of our new signs fits in very nicely.”

While he has worked to cater to such aesthetic concerns, Lipstein stresses that they are secondary. “This is a requirement and you don’t have any choice in the matter,” he says. “You will not just violate code [if you fail to post the signs properly], but you would be civilly or criminally responsible if a tragedy occurs.”

One last item for your to-do list: this new local law also requires building staffs to maintain a logbook. Once a year, they must make sure that all signs are intact. The logbooks must be presented to the FDNY in the event of an inspection.

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