City releases high-rise fire safety information

February 3, 2012 2:47:01 PM PST
If you live in a Chicago high-rise apartment, you can find out if your building meets city fire safety standards.

The city's move to post fire safety information online started Friday and follows a deadly fire last month in a high-rise on North Lake Shore Drive.

Residents can visit to search for specific buildings that are required to submit fire safety information, known as Life Safety Evaluation reports.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the website will increase transparency, and accountability, when it comes to building safety.

By city ordinance, over 600 high-rise residential buildings have to submit those reports, which are used to determine the current fires afety status of the building and maps out changes buildings need to make to meet codes.

The city told building owners that they had to update compliance progress by Feb. 10 and reminders have gone out this week.

"We just want to make it so the buildings are in compliance with the ordinance," said Michael Merchant, commissioner, Chicago Department of Buildings.

"I know they have three years, but we just need them to start taking the steps to get there," said Merchant. "Hopefully the building owners are going to start taking the necessary steps. It's a lot of work that needs to go into the buildings to get them fully compliant with the ordinance."

"I think it's a good idea considering what happened to the high rise over here a few weeks back," said Tom Donnelly. "I think it can't hurt."

The new resource comes after a fatal fire at 3130 North Lake Shore Drive, which happened on Jan. 8. Shantel McCoy was killed after she took an elevator up to a floor where a fire was burning.

The tragedy sparked community-wide anger over fire safety code requirement deadlines for older residential high-rises. Information on-line is available for buildings eight stories or higher.

Ald. Tom Tunney of the the 44th Ward said when people look up the safety status of their building, they should not panic.

"These buildings are safe," Tunney said. "The city of Chicago would not let people reside in a building that's not safe."

More than 600 high-rises built before 1975 will have to keep their online safety progress report updated. Tunney believes that since the information will be easy to access, it will put more pressure on building owners and managers to come into compliance with the life safety ordinance sooner than the 2015 deadline.

"We cannot continue to extend the deadline," Tunney said. "I think this effort is to really provide transparency for the tenants and the residents about where their building is at in terms of compliance with the life safety ordinance."