Posts Tagged marking hazardous abandoned buildings with a red X

Rockford Fire Department news

Excerpts from

Red X’s have been popping up on vacant homes all over Rockford as part of a new program by the fire department. The Red X program is designed as way to let firefighters know that the building has some structural weaknesses before going inside.

“The roof structure did collapse and narrowly missed some of our firefighters. That’s a situation where a sign like this would have warned our firefighters this building has some structural issues and would help drive our tactics a little bit more,” says Rockford Fire Department Division Chief Matt Knott.

The Red X also defines some of the buildings as being on a demolition list and helps neighbors keep an eye on what’s happening next door.

Emergency responders Firefighters say there haven’t been any fires in the marked buildings since the program started six months ago, which is something that doesn’t surprise Curtis.

Right now, there are more than 80 structures with the ink. The fire department hopes to have over 100 within the next two months.

Rockford currently has more than 4,000 vacant homes, though not all vacant homes qualify in the international fire code to have a red x.

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Chicago labels dangerous buildings with red ‘X’ (more)

WBEZ radio has an updated article about Chicago’s Red-X program for labeling dangerous buildings:

Earlier this year, Curious City reported on a small symbol with a big impact on Chicago’s built environment. Now we’ve got an update.

In June we brought you the story of Chicago’s red “X” — sturdy, metal signs that the Chicago Fire Department affixed to 1,804 vacant properties between June 2012 and July 2013. Not every vacant building received a sign, just those that could pose a hazard to firefighters and other first responders in the event of an emergency there.

Chicago firefighter Edward Stringer lost his life when a vacant laundromat collapsed during fire.

Since our story ran in June, several city officials have said they wanted to see the program continue. Ald. Debra Silverstein, who sponsored the original red “X” ordinance, told us she wanted to find more money for the program. At least since WBEZ first reported that the program had run out of money, Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford says they’ve been hunting “anywhere [they] can” for more grant funding. But now the department talks about the program in the past tense.  “We have not seen where any such money is readily available,” says Langford. “We did not get new funding and expanded the electronic side of the system to continue the awareness for first responders.”

The city affixed 1,804 red X signs to buildings deemed structurally unsound. The fire department won’t put up any new red “X” signs for now, Langford says, but it will continue to register dangerous and structurally unsound buildings in an electronic database called the CAD, or Computer Aided Dispatch system, administered by the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC).

Langford says the electronic system works like this: When dispatch is alerted of a fire at a specific address, they pull up information on that location using the OEMC database. Firefighters print out that information before they leave the firehouse, but it will also appear on firefighters’ mobile terminals on site — in red letters. So from the firefighter’s perspective, Langford says, the electronic information communicates the same information as the red “X” was designed to provide.

The electronic alert system is not dependent on grants, unlike the red “X” program, which was funded through a $675,000 award from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

… Langford says, the electronic database is enough. “The OEMC system allows us to achieve the goal of protecting firefighters,” Langford says, “without having to mark buildings.”

And just like the red “X” signs, the information communicated by the OEMC system isn’t meant to rule out entry for first responders, just to advise caution in certain circumstances.

thanks Dannis

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Chicago double LODD 12-22-10 (update)

The Chicago Tribune has an article about a short prison term for the owner of a building that collapsed December 22, 2010 which resulted in the death of two Chicago firefighters: FF Edward J. Stringer and FF/EMT Corey D. Ankum.

A Chicago building owner pleaded guilty to contempt of court and was sentenced Thursday to six months in Cook County Jail for failing to make court-ordered repairs to the abandoned structure before it collapsed in a fire, killing two Chicago firefighters in late 2010.

At the time of the charges, an attorney for Chuck Dai had been critical of the unusual criminal prosecution, but on Thursday, the attorney, Gene Murphy, said Dai pleaded guilty in part to spare the families of those killed and injured in the fire from sitting through a trial. Criminal Court Judge James Obbish also ordered that Dai, 65, of South Holland, pay $5,229 in fines.

Edward Stringer, 47, and Corey Ankum, 34 were killed and 19 other firefighters were injured when the rotting truss roof of the former South Side laundry collapsed three days before Christmas.

Civil lawsuits brought against Dai and others by relatives of Stringer and Ankum are still pending in Cook County Circuit Court.

In a statement issued after Dai’s guilty plea, State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez acknowledged that administrative sanctions would typically be sought for failing to comply with building codes but that the deaths of the two firefighters warranted criminal penalties.

In 2007 city building inspectors had issued 14 citations against the vacant building at 1738-1744 E. 75th St., pointing out that the roof leaked and its trusses were in disrepair. Over the next year Dai failed to show up for numerous court dates, racking up fines of $14,000 for not fixing the problems, prosecutors said. With city attorneys cracking down in 2009, Dai had sought to reduce his fines by signing a court order to make the required repairs by November 2010, but prosecutors said he never completed the improvements. Records show city building inspectors had not yet followed up to make sure the repairs had been made before the fatal fire.

Following the fire, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health faulted the fire department for poor communications – not all the firefighters had radios – as a contributing factor in the deaths of the two firefighters. The city’s Building Department was also cited for not flagging the building as hazardous.

As part of the changes instituted following the fire, the city began marking hazardous abandoned buildings with a red “X,” and the fire department no longer sends firefighters into abandoned buildings without evidence that someone is inside. Firefighters had entered the abandoned building in search of homeless squatters. Officials determined a trash fire was the cause of the blaze.


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