Fire Prevention & Protection, Systems

NYC Fire Sprinkler Industry Lauds Near-Record Low Number of Fire Fatalities

In a recent press release, the Mechanical Contractors Association (MCA) and Steamfitters Local 638 members, who install the fire suppression systems that have helped make New York City the safest big city in America, lauded the near-record low in fire fatalities last year.

In 2015, the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) responded to a record 1.7 million calls, yet reported just 59 fire fatalities–the second lowest number since the city began record keeping a century ago. That represents a 17 percent decline from the 71 fire deaths in 2014 and the lowest number since the city recorded its lowest-ever total, 58 fire deaths in 2012.

“The number one way we measure success in the FDNY is in lives saved, and by that measure we just experienced one of the most successful years ever in our 150-year history,” said FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro in a press release.

“In 2015, New York City recorded the second lowest number of fire fatalities in the past century. While this is significant, we believe that number can always go lower. Last year the New York Fire Sprinkler Council was created to further educate New Yorkers on how ever-evolving fire suppression technology protects lives and property. The Council’s fire sprinkler experts are committed to demonstrating the importance of installing, inspecting, testing and maintaining these life-saving systems,” said Anthony Saporito, Executive Vice President of Mechanical Contractors Association of New York.

According to the FDNY, over 80 percent of fire deaths in 2015 occurred in private homes or apartments without a working smoke alarm. Nearly half of all fatal fires last year were caused by careless smoking or accidental fires, resulting from wiring problems and improper use of extension cords, appliances, and portable heaters.

“The data clearly shows that fire fatalities can be drastically reduced when building owners adhere to fire safety laws,” said Patrick Dolan, Steamfitters Local 638 President. “Tenants are outfitting their homes and apartments with modern furnishings that most often are manufactured from petroleum-based synthetics, which burn hotter, more toxic and up to 800% faster than traditional materials, according to Underwriters Laboratories. That means building owners must be even more vigilant about following all laws and taking safety measures to protect their tenants and their property.”

The City of New York’s significant reduction in fire fatalities in recent decades can be directly traced back to the passage of Local Law 5 of 1973, which required existing high-rise office buildings more than 100 feet tall to be equipped with stair pressurization and compartmentalization or a sprinkler system. The landmark legislation was passed after two fatal office building fires killed five people and injured dozens in 1970. That year there were 310 fire fatalities, the highest number on record. Local Law 5 was a key first step that has led to a dramatic 80% reduction in fire fatalities since 1973, when New York City recorded 275 fire deaths.

The city’s sharpest one-year drop in fire deaths, from 296 in 1990 to 187 in 1991, coincided with the implementation of Local Law 55 of 1989, which required individuals installing and modifying fire sprinkler systems to be licensed by the City of New York. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), wet-pipe sprinklers reduce fire deaths by 82 percent and property damage by 68 percent.

“New York City has long been at the forefront of building safety by adopting effective fire safety laws and standards. Across the nation, cities look to New York for guidance on implementing similar innovative fire safety and fire suppression laws. I’m proud of our track record in enhancing fire safety standards in this city and ensuring the commercial and residential buildings we build and maintain meet the highest safety standards in the country,” said Robert Bartels, Jr., Steamfitters Local 638 Business Agent at Large.

MCA and Steamfitters Local 638 have historically worked with the New York City Council to adopt some of the city’s most critical fire safety legislation, working in tandem with the evolving needs of the world’s largest and busiest fire department.