Push for sprinkler systems in older buildings getting pushback

On behalf of Mike Clancy

The Illinois State Fire Marshal is urging owners of older high-rise buildings in Chicago to install sprinkler systems. The reasoning is to make the buildings safer and give occupants a better chance of escaping a potentially fatal fire. However, the notion is garnering pushback from some of the city’s aldermen. They claim that the renovations would be far too expense to prevent catastrophes that have little likelihood of occurring.

Specifically, automatic sprinklers would be installed in hallways and common areas of all high-rise residential buildings within the next 12 years. According to a Chicago Tribune report, the requirement as been in force for more than 10 years. However, it has been loosely enforced in Chicago. City officials believe that Chicago’s own fire code trumps the state code.

The regulation is directed towards buildings constructed before 1975. These structures do not have to meet the current city rules, especially if they are equipped with other fire safety features such as special doors, upgraded elevators and fire alarms.

However, the legal ramifications persuade building owners and city officials to rethink their positions. Building owners have a legal duty to take reasonable steps to make their structures safe. If an owner has the opportunity to upgrade a defective safety system and fails to do so, he or she could be held liable for the injuries (or deaths) that occur should a fire break out.

The Chicago Tribune reports that two men died in a Chicago high-rise fire in January where the building did not have the required sprinkler systems. Another resident in a similar building perished last year.

If you have questions about premises liability cases, an experienced personal injury attorney can help.

Source: ChicagoTribune.com, State fire marshal pushes for sprinklers, councilmen push back, July 15, 2013

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Push for sprinkler systems in older buildings getting pushback