Bloomberg backs fire safety proposals at construction sites

July 16, 2008 5:48:49 PM PDT
Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Wednesday endorsed dozens of procedural changes to improve fire safety and coordinate oversight at construction sites, responding to the failures that led to a fatal fire last summer at a ground zero skyscraper. The former Deutsche Bank building, which still stands 26 stories high nearly a year after the Aug. 18 blaze that killed two firefighters, was inspected daily by federal, state, city and environmental agencies that regulated its dismantling and removal of toxic dust.

The multiple inspections failed to detect a broken standpipe, which supplies water to fire hoses, that hampered firefighting efforts along with flammable materials used to protect the floors that hadn't been cleaned of toxins.

The city's 69-page report said that the Department of Buildings, fire department and Department of Environmental Protection needed to communicate more about their inspections on demolition and abatement jobs, should "prioritize inspections on the basis of risk" and should train inspectors to look for issues that would affect all the agencies.

The city will require contractors to check standpipe connections daily and visually check the length of the standpipes once a week, color-code the standpipes and require permits for contractors to cut or cap standpipe or sprinkler systems.

The report also recommended the city pursue federal and state legislation to give it official oversight over 885 sites owned by other governments, including the World Trade Center site and the United Nations headquarters. Some sites allow the city to conduct fire and safety inspections, while others, like the Chinese and Cuban embassies, don't allow fire officials to inspect their properties.


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