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Life safety plans new residential priority.

With the already stringent life safety building codes imposed on commercial buildings, 1993 has seen a growing concern for life safety in New York City's residential buildings. Darwood Management Inc., one the city's leading property management firms, believes that voluntary life safety measures are an integral component of good management.

At present, New York City housing legislation does not require a formal, comprehensive life safety program for residential buildings owners. Only select safety codes are required by the City such as the installation of smoke detectors, window guards for apartments with children under 10 years of age, sprinklers and standpipes and signage requirements. Although they have been effective in improving safety, these codes do not collectively constitute a comprehensive life safety program.

An increase in civil tort litigation cases has also contributed to the trend toward implementing life safety and security measures in residential buildings. Cooperative and condominium boards and private building owners are being held liable for accidents and assaults occurring in their buildings that may have resulted from inadequate security, maintenance or fire procedures.

Because of the recent World Trade Center bombing and other fatal fires and explosions that have plagued the city, building owners and cooperative boards are beginning to evaluate the level of safety and security present in their buildings.

Darwood Management, realizing the importance of this situation, has begun developing proto-typical life safety programs that will be implemented in our buildings. Our programs embody all elements of life safety, including security issues, fire safety and maintenance concerns.

Darwood's programs are not only effective in saving lives and improving safety but will also work to reduce the risk associated with liability claims. In the development of these programs, Darwood has researched and tested different techniques, refining them into a comprehensive plan that can be tailored for each building's specific needs.

Our efforts toward life safety can be most effectively demonstrated by our prototypical program implemented at 135 East 54 Street in Manhattan. Before Darwood Management took over as property manager, the building lacked an effective security program. Martin Traum, the building's property manager, explained that with 141 condominiums used for a variety of purposes, from corporate apartments and offices to both primary and secondary residencies, it was a difficult task for the doorman to keep track of everyone entering the building and, as a result, security procedures were compromised.

Darwood, with the participation of the board president, board members and its building starf, developed and implemented a revised set of life safety security rules. These were effective in handling incoming traffic by requiring guests and tenants to provide identification upon entering. In addition, stringent security procedures require that building staff never permit messengers or delivery people to access apartments without an escort.

Darwood also analyzed the level of safety in the building and worked with the board to eliminate the problem areas. Jerome Sidel, board president, reports, "In our combined effort, we took a proactive approach to the building's security by analyzing its vulnerabilities and correcting security weaknesses before any problem could occur. These security measures included installing convex mirrors which expose hidden corners, high intensity lighting for the outside, emergency panic buttons in the laundry room, and a security system Which informs the doorman of open doors leading into the building."

By sharing the responsibility of security with the residents, owners, the board and property manager, 135 East 54th Street has been transformed into a building with effective security.

In addition to security, Darwood Management recognizes the need for improvement of fire safety and procedures, explosion procedures as well as maintenance hazards in the building. Often, building residents are not kept informed of emergency and evacuation procedures and as a result, are unaware of what do to in case of a fire or other emergency.

Darwood works with cooperative and condominium boards in developing evacuation procedures that all residents can understand and follow. We recommend and assist in the distribution of literature that outlines fire and evacuation procedures, programs to assist the elderly and disabled and mock fire drills to familiarize residents with these procedures.

Maintenance Improvement

In response to the increasing liability cases against cooperatives and condominium boards and building owners, Darwood is taking an active role in the identification and improvement of accident causing maintenance deficiencies in buildings. By taking extra care in maintenance, cooperative and condominium boards and building owners can not only identify small problems before they become significant expenses, but can also avoid resident accidents that may lead to costly litigation.
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Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:More Mid-Year Review & Forecast; life safety building codes imposed on commercial buildings by New York, New York housing legislation
Author:Rosenberg, Allan D.
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:Column
Date:Jul 7, 1993
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