Twelve years ago a deadly fire raged through a Cook County administration building and killed six people. Investigators into the blaze determined the six deaths occurred as a result of poor access to fire escapes in stairwells.
Since the fire, Chicago instituted new city-wide programs to renovate pre-1975 high-rises, and provide them with modern fire safety equipment. This week, Judy Frydland, the city Buildings Commissioner announced the program is near completion.
Frydland brought a new attitude to the renovation process by offering business owners more support as they made the necessary upgrades. Unlike former commissioner Felicia Davis, Frydland refrained from the threat of lawsuits for building owners who made steps towards compliance. As a result, only 77 lawsuits remain active, and nearly 1000 buildings have become fully compliant, a situation that makes almost every Chicago accident lawyer happy.
The high cost of upgrades was the biggest reason for the delay, according to the Public Building Commission. Condo buildings and other high-rise residences needed to secure tens of thousands of dollars in financing to meet the new safety standards, and many building owners struggled to receive financing for the improvements in 40 year old buildings.
John Power, a Chicago accident lawyer, believes Chicago is lucky to dodge a wave of litigation involving lax fire safety standards. “We saw the deaths of six people in 2003, and the deaths of a dozen more in the years since the new regulations went into effect. Building owners and city managers should breathe a sigh of relief now that their liability exposure is reduced substantially”.
Power went on to say that if the city fails to keep up with enforcement of the fire safety equipment standards, a Chicago accident lawyer could have grounds for a costly lawsuit. “The residents of Chicago count on the city to keep them safe, not just when they’re on the roads, but in their homes as well”.
To find out more about the Life Safety Evaluation Ordinance, contact the Public Building Commission of Chicago at (312) 477-2500.