A residential apartment building in Oakland, California caught on fire just 3 days after the discovery that the building was in violation of multiple fire codes. This resulted in the death of at least 3 people who resided in the building. During an inspection on March 24th, it was discovered that the building was without fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, a working fire sprinkler system and other many other violations. The building was a residential apartment building that catered to recovering drug addicts and homeless people trying to get back on their feet.
Since Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) are required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), we know that the building had some kind of EAP in place, although it appears that it must have been quite minimal judging by the substandard living conditions. My thoughts are that the EAP for the building was likely outdated and lacked even the minimum requirements for a commercial real estate building.
According to OSHA, an EAP is legally required to have the following as a minimum:
- Evacuation procedures and escape routes
- A means of reporting fires and other emergencies
- Procedures for employees who remain to operate prior to evacuations
- Accounting for all employees/tenants
- Rescue and medical duties for employees performing them
- Names or job titles of people who can be contacted
The purpose of an EAP is to keep employees and tenants safe in the wake of an emergency. It’s easy to think that an EAP is something that you would never need, that your building will never be engulfed into flames. Nobody wants to think that it’s a true possibility, however, it is and you should be taking it seriously. As a property manager, everyone that steps onto the property is your responsibility. You have an obligation to keep them safe and unfortunately, the owners of the engulfed apartment complex in Oakland failed its tenants by neglecting to have the proper safety precautions.
Could an EAP Have Changed the Outcome?
It’s hard to say whether or not an EAP would have completely changed the outcome of this devastating fire, but there’s a strong chance it would have made a difference and possibly saved a few lives. A good EAP ensures that tenants are in constant communication with management and are alerted of emergencies within the building. It also ensures that those tenants know what to do and how to escape in the event of any emergency, regardless of how big or small it may be.
Learn From Their Mistakes
Laws and regulations are in place for a reason and emergencies will run a lot smoother if you comply with them instead of putting them on the back burner. Had the owner of this Oakland apartment building taken the time to ensure that the building was compliant with current regulations, 3 people might not be dead today and they probably wouldn’t be liable for their deaths.
If you find the idea of EAPs and business continuity confusing and are unsure of how to go about making sure that your building is compliant with OSHA and stays up to date, you could strongly benefit from an all-in-one life safety solution such as Preparis. Here at Preparis we work with major commercial real estate companies such as Cushman & Wakefield, Lincoln Property Company and USAA Real Estate Company to ensure that their buildings are compliant with OSHA and any local regulations using a cost effective approach to be sure that you are prepared for any emergency.
Click here to download the Preparis 7 Steps to Preparedness Checklist
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