Marina City On Fire: Oops! Staff Forgets to Tell Residents

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If screw-ups like this didn’t put my life in danger I swear I’d find them funny. Marina City mismanagement reached a new low Tuesday night after a fire broke out in a unit on the 45th floor of East Tower. Fire fighters were dousing the flames, the smell of smoke was filling the upper floors, and 60 stories of elevators were taken out of service. The evening’s biggest casualty: our fire-life safety plan. Because although emergency speakers are installed on every floor, not one Marina City staffer ever bothered to use them to actually tell residents that their building was on fire.

After almost half-a-dozen fires in six months (and that’s already a Cabrini-Green statistic), Marina Citizens know the sound of a multi-alarm fire department response stopping beneath our towers when we hear one. Their reason for being here tonight: a plumber who accidentally set some fiber insulation alight while he was soldering a pipe in a 45th-floor unit–and then went home, leaving the smoldering fire to be discovered hours later. (You may recall from our recent catastrophic flooding event that Marina City does not have much luck when it comes to plumbers).

Upon arrival, Hogtown firefighters immediately shut down all five of East Tower’s elevators as a safety precaution as the smoldering blaze was beginning to fill the upper floors with the smell of smoke. Now let’s do the math. Say you live in a high-rise building, you smell smoke, and all your elevators out of commission—what do you do? The answer for some Marina City residents was to try to walk down the stairs and exit the building.

Besides the fact that it ain’t easy to walk down Marina City’s fire stairs–there are a slew of alarmed emergency gates separating the residential floors from the 18-story parking deck, residents above the fire floor could have been walking directly into danger had the fire been bigger.

Only last week, the Marina Towers Condo Association newsletter was crowing about the condo board’s recent adoption of a new, legally required high-rise, fire-life safety plan. A key element of fire-life safety: information–such as utilizing your duly installed emergency public-address system to tell residents that there is a fire, where in the building the fire is, and what residents above, below, and on the fire floor should immediately do, whether that be to stay in their apartments or self-evacuate down the fire stairs.

Pretty much a fire-life safety no-no: letting the building burn while keeping residents in the dark about it. Yet, not a single emergency announcement was made during the entire fire event on Tuesday night. Not one. Not a “Hello, there’s a fire on 45, the elevators are shut off for now, please remain in your apartments until we give the all clear.” Not a peep. Nothing.

Luckily, the fire was struck quickly and didn’t spread beyond a single unit, but it might have, leaving some residents doubting the ability of building staff to manage a larger fire event. I know I do. I mean, are residents just supposed to assume that if the elevators aren’t working that we’re burning somewhere? Is that not what the fire-life safety emergency speakers are there for? What good are they during a fire if they aren’t used?

And more importantly, why weren’t they used? Did building staff simply forget that 450 apartments of people stretching 580 feet in the air are legally supposed to be informed when their building is on fire with THEM in it?

Perhaps a safer option would simply be for Marina City’s knucklehead plumbers to schedule their fires and floods for the same day.

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