Question for big city urbanites about high rise apts.

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by DDD, Jan 5, 2014.

  1. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    I've seen on the news that there was a fire on the 18th floor or so of a high rise apartment or condo building in NYC today. The resident directly above on the 20th floor sent out tweets saying he, his wife and 2 year old were trapped there and it was smoky. Subsequently he tweeted that the firemen arrived and told them to stay put and they would be back.

    husband (who once worked in NYC) said to me "why didn't they just take the stairwell down to safety?" I responded "I think they have private elevators for luxury units and I doubt each apt. has direct access to a stairwell."

    Hmmm...does anyone know the answer? Somehow it seems insane that you would have a million ++ condo and not have a way out. on the other hand I can't picture a stairwell off the kitchen??? Obviously this is not important but husband and I are trying to figure it out. Anybody know? DDD
  2. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    Some buildings do include private elevators for luxury units. That said, there are usually at least 2 stairwells in each high rise building I've ever lived or stayed in, with "cross-overs" in case there is trouble on one side and you need to switch to the other stairwell.

    The residents in the 20th floor unit should have done the following:
    1) feel the exterior door of their apartment unit. If it's hot to the touch, it's too dangerous to go out as the hallway may be on fire. If the door is regular temperature, then.
    2) Soak tea towels, handkerchiefs or something similar in water, cover your nose and mouth with the wet cloth. If you have small children, get them to cling to you the way baby gorillas cling to their mothers. Legs wrapped around your waist, arms tight around your neck. If you have infants, use a Snugli, baby sling or whatever you can rig up to tie the baby to your body safely. Cover their faces with wet cloth. If you have time, grab easily portable valuables -- wallet / ID / phone. If not, abandon them.
    3) Staying low to the ground, make your way to the stairwell door. Crawl if necessary. (This is where the gorilla-hold thingy I described comes in). Feel the stairwell door. If it's hot don't open the door. If it's regular temperature, get going down the stairs and get the he** out of the building.
    4) Move at least a couple of blocks away from the building before you regroup and figure out next steps. Breaking glass and other falling debris is a real danger, especially if the structural integrity of the building is breached.

    Once you and your loved ones are out, safe and far away, figure out where you're going to go.
  3. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    Trinity, your information is "on target" but what we are discussing (or disagreeing about, lol) is "do all units have access to a stairwell?"

    We agree that (as in 9/11 buildings had stair wells) that stairs or an alternate source of evacuation is needed. on the other hand, watching television shows based in Manhattan I saw a number of "top" units which were accessible by private elevator service. We recently stayed in a hotel where the elevator was an express to "our" floor. At the hotel, of course, there were emergency exit signs and stairs. Looking at private accomodations we are disagreeing on whether code requires a secondary exit method for "top of the line" units. DDD
  4. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Every FLOOR must have access to fire stairs, but every APARTMENT does not always have its' own private stairs. You would have far too much of the building lost if each apt has a separate staircase, Know what I mean?? If there are only 1 or 2 units on the floor, you may each have a private stairwell, but otherwise you share. This pretty basic architecture and space planning and zoning/building regulation, at least in the US.

    I once lived on the 14th floor and we were told by the fire dept that in a fire we HAD to get down to the seventh floor or lower if we wanted to survive. It was a dorm, and the city did not have equipment to reach any higher, though this was in 1988.

    It is IMPORTANT, regardless of where you live, to have a PLAN for emergencies of all sorts. Have a fire PLAN, a tornado PLAN, and a plan for any other common emergency in your area. In my city that means a flood PLAN also. Know where to go, whom to call for help, establish a meeting area AWAY from your home/building. Make your kids PRACTICE this. If you have a second story, get at least one fire ladder that goes out a window. Your difficult child may use it to sneak out, but that is far better than having them unable to leave if there is a fire. As a kid my neighbors thought my mother had lost her dang mind when she invested in a ladder that could safely hang outside my bedroom window and she made us practice using it at least every other year.

    There had been a very large club that caught on fire and many people on the second floor died because they couldn't get out. My uncle was a volunteer fireman and help pull dozens of people and bodies out of that fire. My folks helped him cope with the trauma of that and swore to him that we would all know how to get out in a fire. To this day that uncle refuses to have a second floor on his home. The ladder was around fifty bucks in the seventies, and are not terribly expensive now. They should be basic safety equipment. When we moved that ladder stayed with the home and later the third owners asked me about it. They had used it in a fire and were so glad that my mom was 'that strange lady' who left the ladder with the house. Of course the house we moved to had no second floor or we would have taken it with us.

    My dad always makes sure we review the fire escapes if we stay in a hotel. My relatives thought he was just odd until my cousin's wedding when I was 19. Four fire alarms at separate times that night meant we had to keep tromping outside thanks to the high school band contest staying there. But at least my parents and I knew where to go when my relatives were wandering the halls wondering which stairs to take or if they should take the elevator down.

    NEVER EVER EVER get into an elevator in a fire. Think of it like a portable oven and STAY OUT because you are trapped in a chimney with nothing to stop the smoke and fire from getting to you,
  5. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    My husband always counts the doors between our hotel/motel room and the designated fire exit. While we slept early in the morning on the day of my Mother's funeral a fire broke out and my quiet, laid back and often seemingly unaware husband woke us all up handed us wet hand towels and sent everybody "down low" in the corridor toward the exit.

    I, on the other hand, had an emotional "brain burp". All of a sudden I wasn't sure where the car keys were, where my purse was, what I should wear to be modest...I was a brain freeze mess. Always I have been the "go to" person. Sigh. We got to the church as everyone was coming outside.

    Since then I always put my keys, purse, jewelry etc. in one place with a change of clothes. AND, of course, I "count the doors". DDD

    PS: There were people lost in the NYC fire, sadly.
  6. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    Sorry DDD. Fire safety always sets me on a bit of a crusade.

    There was a fire in my residence building when I was in university. Thankfully, small, easily contained and no-one was hurt. However, it was the third drunken-frat-boy "false alarm" of the night, people were drunk and sleepy and took FOREVER to get out, only to find out the next day that the 3rd one had actually been a real fire. With 2000-odd people living in my wing of that residence, and the other wing twice the size, it could have been a catastrophe if the fire fighters hadn't been so insistent on teaching us all a lesson by evacuating the building in full rather than doing a "stay put and verify" which they often did on party-nights in the university town I lived in at the time.

    As to your original question, the (very few) lux apartments I've been in over the years had private elevators, but they still had to use the fire stairs down the hall with the "plebeians".
  7. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    I only recall visiting such an apartment once. The elevator opened into the apt. directly. It seemed odd not to have a front door, lol. The views were impressive and it was a lovely upscale cocktail party where I didn't give a second thought to safety. This news story made me start wondering "where to heck was access to a stairwell?".

    by the way, I never accept accomodations above the third floor...and I prefer the second. DDD
  8. svengandhi

    svengandhi Well-Known Member

    I lived in a 33 story building as a teenager. All buildings in NYC are required by building codes to have stairwells. The FDNY advises to avoid elevators in a fire and to use stairs. However, newer buildings in NYC are fireproof, meaning that the doors are rated to withstand fire for a specified period of time (usually 30 to 90 minutes) so generally people who are not in the affected apartment are advised to stay put. A number of years ago, relatives of Macauley Culkin had an apartment fire which spread and killed people because they didn't slam the door shut when they fled the apartment, thus allowing the fire to spread. The man who died in this fire apparently fled into a staircase which was open and venting because FDNY was using it as the attack stairs to reach the fire floor. The doors being opened allowed the fire and smoke to spread. He was more than 10 floors above the fire and would have been fine had he stayed put. Personally, I would never live so high up anymore but if I did, I'd want a balcony or terrace that I could go to if needed.
  9. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    Of course, in this particular case the family "tweeting" tried to go on their terrace/balcony and there was too much smoke out there. Sigh!
    I know it is elegant but I think it would be a "coin toss" if I had to choose an ultimate high rise or a mid-grade mid rise. on the other hand, I live in a single family home that needs work etc. BUT has three doors to the outside and big windows that open in all rooms, LOL! DDD