NYC Adopts Revised Fire Code, Analyzes Child Fire Deaths

This week, the New York City Council approved the first comprehensive update of the city's fire code in almost a century. According to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, the new 645-page code adopts national standards, reflects lessons learned from past fires, and is integrated and cross-referenced with the new Building Code, also recently adopted by the council. The Fire Code governs the use of building safety systems such as sprinkler systems and extinguishers, the permit and inspection process, fire-detection and extinguishing systems, and emergency preparedness and planning.

"Together, the new Fire and Building Codes will improve safety while also making it easier for construction professionals, designers, property owners, businesses, and others to work here more efficiently and understand their obligations under the law," Bloomberg said.

On May 29, Bloomberg, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden, and Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta released the second annual Child Fatality Report, which reviewed preventable fatalities among children ages one to 12 years. It said fires are the second-leading cause of child deaths from injuries in New York City, after motor vehicle accidents, and 75 percent of the fires that killed children in New York City are easily preventable -- resulting from adult behavior such as leaving candles unattended, overloading outlets, or not extinguishing cigarettes or children playing with matches or lighters.

The report focused on the 43 residential fires involving child deaths in New York City from 2001 to 2006, with the researchers finding 85 percent were set accidentally. "At a time when we've had the fewest civilian fire fatalities of any six-year period in the city's history, we're still losing too many youngsters in fires that adults can readily prevent," said Bloomberg. "Parents and guardians must keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children. When a child dies, a piece of New York's future dies, too. We'll never know what that little boy or girl might have achieved. But we do know that we've got a duty to protect all of our children from the preventable dangers of this world. When it comes to protecting children from fires, a little common sense goes a very long way."

"The FDNY has made significant progress in reducing civilian deaths through fire safety education programs and advanced training for our members," said Scoppetta, "but the death of any New Yorker, especially a child, requires our continued commitment to making sure it does not happen again. This report is a significant step in that direction by highlighting the deadly consequences of a fire in the home, and we look forward to using its results to better protect the community."

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