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follow up questions on Champlain Towers Miami FL building collapse
September 16, 2022
follow up questions on Champlain Towers Miami FL building collapse
    After recently watching your webinar on the Champlain Towers I have many observations and questions. I am sure everyone else who saw it would like to know the answers to what I have questioned and perhaps we will get a response. I do not know why there were not more comments and questions from the industry. Maybe now is the time to add another very, very clear paragraph to the KK contracts that has to do with the training of operation of a fire alarm system by others.
    Before I begin I want to state that for some reason the presenters seemed to be defensive that they did nothing wrong and I do not understand why they had the need to do so since there was no fire and this was an extenuating circumstance.
     First let’s talk about some of the legal and insurance issues.
 As I am sure you would want to know were any of the services provided by the alarm firm done on KK contracts?
 Next, was the alarm firm required to defend and hold harmless the central station and therefore pay for their legal bills?
 Were the fire alarm manufactures (Notifier the fire alarm control company and Potter the water flow switch company) named in the law suit and required to pay damages?
 Was the case either considered negligence or gross negligence on behalf of the alarm firm?
 Was the alarm firm named as an additional insured on the building’s insurance policy?
 Did the contracts limitation of liability apply in the defense of the alarm firm?
 Were there any statements about the buildings responsibly when it comes to the operation of the fire alarm system on the contract?
     Next let’s talk about the operation of the system.
 It was stated that the building went down I believe in seven minutes. If that was the case what announcement could have been made to the tenants that would have done anything let alone handicapped, seniors and children?
 If there was more time and the building was collapsing what would have been the proper instructions to the tenants as what to do?
 Were there any cameras on the floors so that the Guard/fire safety director can see what is happening so as to give some evacuation relocation instructions?
 What type of training was provided to the Guard/fire Safety director? In NYC you have to be certified to do this by take a course as well as have an onsite test with the FDNY. Additionally there have to be a Fire Safety Plan prepared by a P.E. that is submitted to the FDNY and approved as opposed to some limited training by the fire alarm firm.
 If the Guard/fire safety director did make an announcement without all the facts and misdirected the occupants of the building to the wrong places and would have not made them more libel than not doing anything at all?
 Were the ever any fire drills of instructions to the tenants as what to do in an emergency or a fire and were the records of them available?
 Were there any changes locally or by state in the form of a new code section or law to address such a situation in the future?
 Why was the building allowed to be occupied when there was a structural engineers report on the buildings condition?
 Was the locally municipally and the state also included in the legal action and if so did they pay out by allowing the building to be occupied with such severe problems?
  If an announcement was made and cameras were present as to see the floor status could tenant have been relocated to another section of the floors that did not collapse?
  Did the alarm firm’s insurance company bring in another expert in order to provide an additional defense on their behalf and were the system approval discussed as part of the defense?
    Comment: I find no reason that the alarms firms’ insurance rate would not increase if the insurance company paid out a loss let alone not renewing them. It can also make hard to go to a new firm with a loss record as well.
Most likely most of the insurance firms paid out here because bad PR would have had a greater effect on their business as opposed to the pay out in the long run.
     The next topic is the Fire alarm system questions and operation.
Noted in an article on the building that it was to go under five million dollars work related to the structural problems so how much more could have point ID been charged for that would have made a difference?
 Why would the alarm firm have two levels of central station transmission with a system that transmits point ID in the first place? The FDNY does not require point ID but from the alarm firms point of view it provides information in advance without being on site in advance that has great value.
 The review of the central station report because of all of the signals was somewhat subjective and conclusions drawn correct?
 Were there any signals on the central station report giving specific troubles related to signals circuits and grounds that would have indicted wiring problems as the building was collapsing?
 Would you the alarm firm now require your customer base to have point ID as opposed to what was provided here?
 Did the building have sprinkler water flow switches per floor?
 The reference to low air pressure would apply to a dry sprinkler system so was there a dry sprinkler system in the garage? I would think not since the temperatures there do not generally go to freezing temperatures and if not there is no need to monitor sprinkler system air pressure not water.
Is the sprinkler system a stand along one or is it a combination stand pipe sprinkler system?
 The picture of the fire pump provided seems to be a booster pump for the sprinkler system because of the size. If so was it monitored for pump running as required and was that indicated on the central station report so that it could have been clearly determined that the sprinkler system activated correct and was it?
 It was stated that the sprinkler system active based upon water being shown in the garage. How do you not know if the sprinkler system or stand pipe system did not active on a higher floor and that water was from something else?
 Does the sprinkler system activation recall the elevator like in NYC in addition to the elevator lobby smoke detectors that could have recalled the elevators?
 Could dust from the collapsing building not have set off an elevator lobby smoke detector and recalled the elevators?
 Did the fire alarm system have remote distributed intelligence that is remote terminal units with amplifiers and batteries throughout the building or was it all located in the main fire alarm control with banked amplifiers?
    Let’s now discuss the building from an evacuation point.
How many side of the building was street accessible for fire department apparatus?
 Was the building balconies street accessible for fire department apparatus so as to be used below seventy five feet?
 What did the certificate of occupancy indicate per floor as the occupancy load (number of people allowed)?
 What was the capability of the stairwells and how many were there to safely evacuate a planned evacuation per fire floor, floor above and floor below as opposed to the whole building?
 Stated was that the notification operation of the fire alarm system for this 12/13 story building was fire floor, floor above, floor below with a pre-recoded announcement and strobe activation. If in fact the fire alarm system did active for this non fire condition could it have not cause much confusion thus causing more problems? NYC does not allow either of these items in high-rise residential building.
 Did the building have Emergency Responder Radio system for the fire department use? The FDNY no longer allows warden station jacks as opposed to warden telephones.
Did the building have a generator and if so were the elevators and fire alarm system connected to it and monitored by the fire alarm systems?
      Let’s now discuss fire alarm system event history.
 Could the event history been accessed remotely (IE internet) provide that a jumper or switch as provide by most manufactures do or if someone was able to access the premise or even down loaded it while they there?
 Could the event history been set up it there was an internet connection to the cloud as set intervals for reference?
     A thought and something to consider here:
 Would it not make sense in the future like the FDNY use to require as to have a dedicated and labeled switch on the fire alarm control that when operated by the Guard/fire safety director send a signals to the central station to notify the emergency responders as something simple and stupid in the event of an emergency when they do not know what to do?
    In conclusion responses to the questions and points made that will be useful in painting the whole picture that the program did not as well as educating the industry on items and concerns to consider if faced with the same situation hopefully not. The installation was a fire alarm system that was specifically designed and installed for that purpose. But as can now be seen in this picture if another event happens like this you have a heads up on how to deal with it.     As shown problems can arise when the fire alarm system services another purpose that it was never intended to do but could be used for.
      Nothing stated here is intended to criticize or condemn what happened but we are only trying to get the whole picture of events and systems in the building for an understanding point of view. Anyone could have been put in this uncomfortable position and this firm apparently by doing the presentation has the best intentions. The FDNY does have a method to their madness that other states and municipalities can learn form and this is the perfect example.
     So now let’s see if there is a response and comments from others here.
Yours truly,
    Lot of issues, including many fire related procedural issues that should be of interest to fire experts.
    On the legal side, the fire alarm company did not have a K&K contract [still doesn't I don't think]. As it turned out it probably didn't matter because all carriers decided to pay policy limits. That decision had less to do with the law than it had to do with humane considerations. Every possible party was included in the litigation [as I understand it] and the litigation could have taken many years to wind its way through the court system. The litigation cost would have been staggering. While there is certainly little solace to those who suffered with monetary compensation, it would have been worse with lingering litigation and finger pointing. Ultimately many of the carriers who contributed to the settlement fund would have gotten off the hook. The decision to settle quickly was less legal and all personal.
    The alarm company, and perhaps other contractors, did get a non-renewal of its E&O policy [I believe]. Some carriers base those decisions on what they perceive bad luck insureds.
    As to the fire procedures and suggestions, hopefully we will hear from the fire alarm experts.

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Ken Kirschenbaum,Esq
Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum PC
Attorneys at Law
200 Garden City Plaza
Garden City, NY 11530
516 747 6700 x 301