Building Markings and Rescues
The latest in our â€˜Why We Searchâ€™ feature highlighting rescues, smart and safe tactics and the plight departments and municipalities are in dealing with these structures.
Vanishing Xâ€™s in Chicago?
Chris Bentley of WBEZ follows up his first story on the marking system Chicago uses to identify vacant properties. His story detailed the knowledge and questions about the program from residents and its local origins from a line of duty death in 2010. Identifying and marking such buildings was the first recommendation in the NIOSH investigative report.
Recommendation #1: Fire departments and city building departments should work together to identify and mark buildings that present hazards to fire fighters and the public.
In this incident, the fire department responded to a structure that had been abandoned for more than five years. The building was not marked with any type of sign or warning information that identified the potential hazards. When viewed from the front, the building appeared to be a vacant building, in good repair, awaiting a new tenant. Businesses located on the same block were open for business. In 2007, the cityâ€™s Department of Buildings (DOB) cited the building owners for the deteriorated condition of the structure and ordered the owner to either repair or demolish the structure. The structure had been in the judication process for several years. There was no formal process for the DOB to mark dangerous and abandoned buildings and there was no process for the DOB to notify the fire department when hazardous buildings were identified. The fire department did have a process in which the fire department notified the DOB in writing whenever the fire department identified hazardous structures.
As part of answering a residentâ€™s question about the Xâ€™s and an update to original story, Bentley and his coworkers learned that money for the marking system has run out. A year after the line of duty death an ordinance was passed requiring the fire department to identify, list and mark structures with the bowstring truss construction. A second ordinance followed to require the identification and marking of all of Chicago’s dangerous buildings, using the method typical with the FDNY. A listed of structures from the building department was sent to the fire department and by the middle of 2012, over 1,000 of the city’s 5,000+ registered vacant buildings had been marked.
When Joyce Lopez, the mother of fallen Chicago firefighter Edward Stringer, contacted WBEZ about the funding of the marking system and the end of the grant money, her question put reporters on the track of the current plan to mark dangerous buildings. A department spokesman told them that while search for additional money has been fruitless, they have been able to transition to an electronic program that is tied with their CAD (Computer Automated Dispatch) system. Funding for this system was procured though FEMA at the cost of $6,750. No longer appearing to try the AFG grant funding again, the department is slowly shifting from visible X’s on a building to red letters on the MDT.
What method does your department use to identify, register and mark vacant buildings?
If you currently do not have a marking method, how hard would it be to start one?
How is information about dangerous buildings shared throughout your department? Do you rely on dispatch information? Department or battalion circular or other information sharing? Simple map book notations?
Rescues from Structures Where No One is Inside
Hamilton, OH Homeless man burned while starting fire in abandoned garage.
Billerica, MA Training in vacant building credited with saving firefighter in later fire.
Yonkers, NY Man injured in vacant house fire.
Auburn, NY Fire department begins marking vacant structures.
Council Bluffs, IA Homeless woman injured in vacant house fire.
Chatham, ON Body found in vacant house fire.
Read about more of these examples in our section, ‘Why We Search’.
Bill Carey is the online public safety news and blog manager with PennWell Public Safety, or more specifically FireRescue Magazine/FirefighterNation.com, JEMS.com, LawOfficer.com and FireEMSBlogs.com. Bill started in the fire service, as a third generation firefighter in 1986, on the eastern shore of Maryland and then continued after moving to Prince Georgeâ€™s County. He served as a volunteer sergeant and lieutenant at Hyattsville. Billâ€™s writing has been on Firehouse.com, Fire Engineering, FireRescue Magazine, FirefighterNation.com, the Jones and Bartlett 2010 edition of â€œFire Officer: Principles and Practiceâ€, The Secret List and Tinhelmet.com. His recent writing on firefighter behavioral health has been nominated for 2014 Neal Award for Best Subject-Related Series.