The Smart Apartment Advisor Show for Wed. Jan 4th


Trivia Question: How frequently does the new fire safety legislation require residents to test their smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors? 

Answer: Monthly. 

Fire Safety Legislation

Hope you had a great holiday, happy new year. This is a gentle reminder that if you still have your tree up in your house you should take it down right away. I get creeped out by the thought of a dry pine or fir tree in people’s houses wrapped in electrical wire sitting in my living room!

Politicians are more interested in suppressing fire to preserve the stock of rent controlled units so they can solidify their voter base and get re-elected than actually protecting the lives at stake. Prevention is how to save lives. 

Let me explain: 

The easiest, most inexpensive way to ensure people’s safety is to provide information. This is the first step of the new fire safety legislation. 

The next way to ensure safety is more difficult and can be more expensive, and that’s fire prevention. Let’s talk about why fires start. In my experience the most common causes of fire are electrical shorts/malfunctions, smoking, cooking, and candles. The majority of fires that I’ve seen have been electrical.  

New fire safety regulation going into effect this month throughout SF.  

Mostly involves written disclosures and notices from landlords to their tenants but also includes a some minor changes in fire alarm maintenance (helpful!) and a new requirement to expand central smoke detectors (probably helpful). 

The notifications can’t hurt. They amount to a lot of busywork and extra documentation but they don’t really seem to address the problems we’re facing nowadays.  

Fire alarm maintenance changes are welcome and I have supported this idea in the past. Before the legislation it was required for each building with a central station fire alarm to have it inspected and tested annually and a sticker affixed to the system showing the date it was inspected. Now the owners (or the fire alarm companies on the owners’ behalf) are going to be required to submit a statement of compliance to SFFD verifying that the system has been certified. I think it should be an electronic system so everyone can type in an address of a building and see the statements as a matter of public record and then reminders can be generated and Notices of Violation issued automatically to those people who don’t comply. 

In the big fires we’ve had in the past few years, especially in the Mission, most of the causes have been electrical or smoking. A lot of times it’s cooking related also.  

Information — Prevention — Sprinklers

Electrical systems are problematic because turn-of-the-century buildings with electrical systems added on or with original electrical systems from many decades ago are not equipped to provide enough power for today’s residents. These old electrical systems were typically intended to power a single overhead light fixture and a single outlet for a lamp in each room. Nowadays you need lots of outlets to charge your cell phone, run your TV, your stereo, your hair dryer, and lots of other electrical devices that didn’t exist when these systems were installed. When these systems are overloaded you end up with overloaded surge protectors that short out and start fires. These older systems also may have polarized, non-grounded outlets or no ground wire at all and this is less safe. The grounding wire shuts off the power  if there’s a dangerous high voltage coming from too many items connected to the circuit. This doesn’t exist in older systems. Upgrading them would introduce this critical safety function to the systems. 

Current codes require two grounded outlets every six feet along walls  

We should mandate that all electrical systems in buildings be brought up to code and not allow them to be “grandfathered in” just because there’s no work being done. This would be much more effective in preventing fires.  

Maybe if we could effectively prevent people from smoking indoors at all and outlaw candles in houses, and maybe teach people how to cook better, we could eliminate the majority of household fires.  

Once you have a fire, the problem already exists and the damage is done. it doesn’t matter whether the fire is put out by a sprinkler or a fire fighter. Sprinklers don’t save lives. Preventing fires saves lives. Sprinklers are a fire suppression method. Once you have a fire you have a problem. Sprinklers can keep the fire from spreading but they tend to cause more water damage than if the building had a fire that was extinguished by fire fighters quickly.  

The problem is that installing sprinklers in buildings is tremendously disruptive and this is suppression and not prevention.  

Installing sprinklers is disruptive. 

Water flow issues. Sprinklers require a tremendous amount of water volume to be available. We don’t have the central infrastructure available to meet the flow requirements of sprinklers in every building, especially in super-dense areas like the Tenderloin, Nob Hill, etc. where there are lots of buildings, lots of floors, and lots of units.  

It’s possible to install water pumps and backup generators in buildings but it’s a huge, wasteful expense that doesn’t add enough safety. 





J.J. Panzer