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BOMA zeros in on 'hottest' fire safety methods.

Property managers and fire safety directors received an overview of fire safety systems and the city's bureaucracy at a seminar given by the Building Owners and Managers Association last week.

The overflowing crowd listened to experts in engineering, installation, electrical systems and fire safety answer commonly asked questions about New York City codes and requirements at a seminar held at the Chemical Bank building at 270 Park Avenue.

Zygmunt 'Ziggy' Staszewski, P.E., president of Z.S. Engineering, explained that by law, fire alarms must be called in by the central station company within two minutes, whenever an alarm is tripped.

If a building is having many false alarms, owners will now be facing penalty fines from the fire department since the engines must roll on every call.

An owner might want to consider a new system in that case, as well as to save money on calibrating old smoke detectors which must be done by hand once a year. ' [Testers] no longer spray a can of smoke," Staszewski said, and older smoke alarms may be out of range or unable to be recalibrated.

Newer addressable system can be checked and verified from the command stations. They can also have hundreds of "addresses" that identify exactly which sensors have been tripped so the Fire Department can be told this information.

Nicholas M. Chiarchiaro, co-branch manager of AFA Protective Systems, discussed various fire systems and dialers. A normal response for repair during the week, he said, would be two hours, while on the weekend it might be four hours. Most companies offer labor only contracts, while some, such as his, offer a complete package, he added.

He said the most commonly used McCullough dialer system is on a loop and if other buildings have a problem, your system will be out of service. This system does not work on fiber optic cables and will be outmoded in the near future, he noted, as city cabling is replaced.

He said the digital system, which works from, a simple telephone jack, has the least amount of outtages and is the least costly for transmissions since it merely makes a local telephone call.

Chiarchiaro noted that owners who retain their sprinkler system after installing a Class E fire command system will also enjoy a 40 percent to 45 percent insurance reduction.

Staszewski explained that amplifiers used to make announcements often give out after 15 years. While they may. work for 15 second test intervals, he warned, they might not work if instructions in a real emergency exceeded 30 or 40 seconds.

When new speakers need to be added to a current system, such as when a new tenant divides a space in a different manner, or when wiring is replaced, Local Law 58 requires strobe lights be installed as well.

These strobe lights are a problem, added Paul Rudolf, director of life-safety system at Benjamin Electrical Engineering Works.

For instance, he noted, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requires the strobe - used to alert deaf individuals that a fire alarm is sounding - to be mounted 80 inches off the floor, or six inches below the ceiling if the ceiling is lower.

On higher ceilings, it might have to be mounted on a skyhook. ADA regulations take precedence over New York City Building Codes, which have not. yet been certified by the ADA.

These strobes, however, give off different amounts of light when seen from different angles and are made with differing intensities. Because of the strobe effect, they must be separated from each other so a person does not see more than one at a time or be subject to more than 3 flashes per second and perhaps trigger an epileptic seizure.

Since the strobes need to be mounted near every stairway and exit, long corridors or places where two stairways are facing present logistical problem.

Rudolf said the worst situations occur when owners ask engineers to draw up bid documents that are based on examples of systems and do not apply to the building in question. He warned owners that the electrical engineer or architea should walk the plans through the entire process-particularly at the Building Department--and coordinate with the electricians who are not engineers and will not necessarily know what is required.

Keep copies of everything that is filed, Rudolf advised the owners, as documents are often misplaced in the city agencies and the burden is on the owner to provide proof of filing and the date.

Fire safety system are not supposed to go through the fast track Directive 14 process, he added but noted that the Building Department could approve it anyway, only to have the Fire Department find it illegal later. 'Watch for the Directive 14 stamp in the corner,' he said.

The plans on file must match the plans examined by the Fire Safety Inspectors at the end of the process, he added.

"If you don't pick your people carefully, you are going to have a problem,' Rudolf advised, after a lively discourse of worse case scenarios that he said are unfortunately, all too common.

Not only can an owner be denied permits to operate the required fire safety system, but the summons is answerable in criminal court.

The Fire Department's Deputy Chief Inspector Richard Stein supervises the inspection process. He said that inspections are backlogged between 16 weeks and six months and advised filing the form to request an inspection even as the planning process is taking place.

An extension can be granted but if the papers are not properly filled out, he warned, the request is put back in the beginning of the line. Inspections are billed at $210 per hour and notices must be put up in the building advising of the inspection.

Inspections can be expedited for day care facilities, nursing homes, hospitals, or where a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy or Certificate of Occupancy is in jeopardy.

The program was so well received that BOMA is already plotting a "Son of Fire Safety System' seminar for later this year.
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Title Annotation:Building Owners and Managers Association conducts seminar on fire safety systems
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Feb 10, 1993
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