Fire seminar reveals vital information

Posted on Thu, 11/01/2018 - 12:30pm

By Ron Cohn

Tom Devaney A modest audience of about 25 was on hand for the residential high-rise life safety presentation on Saturday morning, Oct. 13. However, if residents had known what was in store, every seat in the Windjammer Room probably would have been occupied. In addition to the steps you should take to stay safe in a fire emergency, Chicago Fire Department public education officer Tom Devaney passed along some vital information not covered in previous seminars.

Even before she introduced the CFD veteran, making his first appearance at Malibu East, Social Committee chair Sandy Chaet’s eyes widened at his first piece of new information, which is not a matter of fire safety, but of an unexpected benefit to residents.

Lower insurance rates

Malibu East, he told her, should be in line for a reduction of insurance premiums. He later explained to the group that this was because of the city’s Class One ISO rating, Malibu East’s four staff members who have been certified as fire safety directors, and the Association’s ongoing safety seminars. Sandy, in her capacity as a Board member, said a rate reduction would promptly be addressed with our insurance carrier.

Other new information Devaney covered included:

Anyone with special needs must register

Residents with disabilities, hearing difficulties or special needs that might put them at heightened risk in an emergency should register with the Management Office so that assistance will automatically be provided. Additionally, Devaney said, there is a program called “Seniors at Risk” through the CFD, under which your unit will be inspected for safety hazards and smoke detectors will be installed or replaced free of charge, if needed. This service can be requested by calling 312‑747‑6691.

Simple step to protect your pet

Residents with dogs or cats will be able to ask at the Management Office for an inconspicuous sticker for their door that will notify emergency responders that the unit should be checked for a pet left behind in the unlikely case of an evacuation. The Board will address the provision of these stickers, so watch for a report on their availability in a future Dialogue.

Take your smoke detectors seriously

  • Proper installation. A smoke detector should not be installed in the kitchen. One should be outside the kitchen, one in a common hallway and within 15 feet of wherever people sleep. They should be installed on a ceiling, not a wall, but not close to an air vent, ceiling fan or fixture. Additionally, they should not be loosely taped or nailed up, but should be screwed into the provided mounting ring and secured to the ceiling surface.
  • New checking procedure. We are now instructed, Devaney said, besides changing batteries whenever daylight-saving time starts or ends, to check our smoke detectors weekly. Push the test button on the detector to check the circuitry and battery charge. A flash of red light or an alarm indicates all is A-OK. The maximum life of a smoke detector is approximately eight years (it should be printed on the detector), so keep track of its age.

If a fire breaks out

The first basic rule of high-rise fire safety is to stay in your unit – unless the fire is in your unit. Since 59% of residential high-rise fires originate in the kitchen, you should have a fire extinguisher under your sink. ABC dry chemical extinguishers are inexpensive and available at most hardware stores or online. They should not be used without training, however, according to Devaney. Management will try to set up a training session for residents by the company that inspects and services our common-area fire extinguishers.

One tip Devaney offered was, if you’re inclined to use your fire extinguisher to fight a fire, you should always stand with your back to the exit when trying to put out a kitchen fire. That way, in case it flares up, you are to drop the extinguisher and back out of the unit with haste. Evacuate in case of any fire in your unit that cannot be promptly extinguished; close your door and leave it unlocked. Once you are safe, notify the doorman and get instructions.

For any other fire, stay in your unit and listen for instructions via the red loudspeaker on your floor. Keep your unit doors and sliding glass doors closed. If smoke is infiltrating your unit, cover the space beneath your doors with a wet towel.

If conditions worsen, call 911 to inform them of your situation and unit number. If it is difficult to breathe, crack open a balcony door for fresh air but do not go out on the balcony. Listen to the speaker for instructions from Fire Department personnel.

You should either be in your unit, on the way down the stairs, if so instructed, or in the Lobby. Do not use the elevators.

Further information about residential high-rise fire safety is available on a CFD instruction sheet in the Management Office or online at