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Repeat of Fire Tragedy in Chicago High-Rise Should Have Been Prevented
Date:12/10/2009

gh-rise fire safety.

Furthermore, Chicago's LSE program provides no additional requirements that are not already contained in the Chicago Fire Code and Chicago Building Code, except for a fire department communications system in stairwells, which was in response to specific issues identified in the fatal Cook County Administration Building fire.

Lia questions whether this building at 260 East Chestnut Street, as well as many other high-rise buildings in Chicago, has been complying with the determined timeline for the installation of fire sprinklers. Under the current LSE program, building owners and property managers are making minimal repairs to various aspects of their buildings.

"Quite honestly, we are uncertain that the City of Chicago has been effectively enforcing these retrofit projects and keeping them on track. The city needs to be sure that even the most meager of provisions in the Life Safety Evaluation are being met in order to provide the highest level of fire protection available under this system," says Lia.

Highlighted by this latest disaster, however, Chicago's LSE system tragically allows selected residential high-rise buildings to avoid the installation of fire sprinklers. The city's LSE website states: "When the Life Safety Evaluation and its recommended improvements are completed, I assure you that your building will be safer for its occupants." However, with little to no follow-up on the compliance of this ordinance, "quick fix" improvements have the potential to become big issues by falling back into the problems that existed prior to the evaluations.

This latest fire tragedy illustrates that non-sprinklered high-rise residential buildings give residents a false sense of security from fire. An annunciator system -- a voice alarm system that senses heat and smoke -- was present in the building, but had no capability to extinguish the blaze, nor could it control the smoke spread, high heat
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