New Jersey high-rises aren’t as fire safe as you think
Survey finds that 495 high-rises in the state are not fully protected by a fire sprinkler system.
Fatal fires in high-rise buildings continue to demonstrate the dangers associated with failing to install fire sprinkler systems. These buildings present unique challenges to fire departments and pose a serious danger to their occupants if fire sprinkler systems are not in place.
To investigate the readiness of high-rise buildings in New Jersey to deal with the threat of fires, the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NJFSAB) and the PenJerDel Chapter of the National Fire Sprinkler Association have developed the “New Jersey High-Rise Building Fire Sprinkler Protection Survey,” a statewide, comprehensive survey of over 1,100 high-rise buildings in New Jersey with varying levels of sprinkler protection.
Here are some key findings from the survey:
- New Jersey is home to 342 partially protected high-rise buildings and 153 high-rise buildings that are not equipped with any components of a fire sprinkler system.
- Ten cities in New Jersey have a combined total of 296 high-rise buildings that are not fully sprinklered, with 134 in Newark and Jersey City alone.
- Nine hospitals in the state are not fully protected by a fire sprinkler system.
The survey was developed as the end result of a consolidation of a 2005 study on high-rise buildings in the state, developed by the New Jersey High-rise Fire Safety Coalition, and a document provided by the New Jersey Division of Fire Safety in 2017 listing 426 high-rise buildings with varying levels of fire sprinkler protection. Multiple rounds of inquiries, verifications, onsite surveys, virtual tours, and consultations were conducted to develop the survey.
“Fires in high-rise structures are unique, due to the challenges they pose for fire departments and residents,” said David Kurasz, Executive Director of the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board (NJFSAB). “Fire departments are required to climb numerous flights of stairs, bringing air and over 100 pounds of crucial equipment along the way. Meanwhile, residents have greater difficulty escaping, due to their inability to use elevators and the number of stairs they have to climb down. It’s crucial to underscore the need for fire sprinkler installation in high-rises and to draw attention to the many structures in New Jersey that aren’t equipped to deal with fires.”
The survey delves into the unique challenges of high-rise fires, which stem from inherent and unavoidable design elements that place occupants at a higher risk for injury or death when a fire occurs. It also provides concentration maps of unsprinklered and partially sprinklered buildings throughout the state.
Case studies of high-impact fires that have occurred in high-rise buildings throughout the world are briefly reviewed in the survey. These studies include Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Hotel fire in 1980, which resulted in 85 deaths and a $300 million damage estimate, and Philadelphia’s Meridian Bank Building fire in 1991, in which three firefighters lost their lives and $100 million in damages were incurred.
Click here to view/download the report