FDNY Unveils Plan For High-Rise Safety

Copyright 2002 Newsday, Inc.
Newsday (New York, NY)...06/29/2002

By Graham Rayman. STAFF WRITER

The Fire Department Friday issued its most detailed plan yet for reform of rules governing safety in high-rise buildings in the wake of the Sept. 11 tragedy.

Robert Brugger, deputy commissioner for fire prevention, said the FDNY advocates limits on the use of truss construction, a widely used method of supporting floors and roofs that has long been criticized as unsafe by firefighters. Truss construction has been associated with a disproportionate number of firefighter deaths. The Twin Towers had long trusses supporting the floors.

Brugger also said buildings taller than seven stories should be required to maintain detailed information for firefighters, including the layout of stairways. "More detailed information is often needed by firefighters when they first arrive on the scene," he said.

Brugger made the remarks during a hearing before the City Council Committee on Housing and Buildings, chaired by Councilwoman Madeline Provenzano (D-Bronx). The hearing focused on possible changes in the city's building code. The city Department of Buildings is studying the issue and is expected to release its findings at the end of the year. Brugger said the Fire Department proposals largely deal with new construction.

Brugger said the department is reviewing a proposal to require all buildings to develop evacuation plans. Stairwells would be better protected and wider, and would be located farther apart. The structure around lobbies and loading docks would be strengthened. Elevator shafts would have to be smoke-proof. Ventilation systems would have to be designed to limit the spread of smoke. All building fire safety staff would be certified by the Fire Department, he said.

Buildings Commissioner Patricia Lancaster said changes to the code likely will take years to develop.

Gene Corley, the leader of a federal engineering study of the collapses, said in his testimony that he did not think code changes were necessary for high-rises that are not terror targets, but he said research into fireproofing and other areas may lead to future changes.