When a fire started in The Strand high-rise this past Sunday morning, Daniel McClung and Michael Cohen reacted in a typical manner. They grabbed their two dogs and attempted to exit their 38th floor apartment via the stairwell. Sadly, they were overwhelmed by smoke when firefighters opened the stairwell door several floors below. Mr. McClung and the dogs passed away; Mr. Cohen is still in intensive care.
Officials are blaming the most basic of human instincts, instilled in all of us at a young age: when you see flames or smell smoke, get out. Unfortunately, in many modern high-rise buildings, getting out may be less safe than sheltering in place.
Modern high-rises are typically built using flame retardant materials and fire doors that can withstand an hours-long blaze. During Sunday’s fire, residents who stayed in their apartments escaped unharmed...even those who stayed in apartments next door to the fire.
Many residents of The Strand were unaware of the building’s fire procedures, despite a fire safety placard posted on every entry door. One resident, a member of a NJ emergency response team, knew the proper procedures, but still felt compelled to evacuate. Emergency officials are trying to figure out the best way to communicate fire procedures to those living in high-rise buildings.
Note from the article: “If evacuation is imperative [during a fire], as a general rule, a stairwell without a standpipe should be used. In the Strand, the second stairwell, Stair B, remained largely free of smoke during the fire.