A number of Saratoga Springs buildings used by the public have deficient fire safety plans, an issue for city fire inspectors to address, according to a new state audit.
The audit by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office looked at city records for 2013 and found a number of issues with a sample of fire plans examined in detail.
“Our review found that, while each building we visited had a fire plan, most of the plans were incomplete and did not comply with the Fire Code,” the audit concluded. “Incomplete fire plans may lead to an increased chance of loss of life of property damage.”
The state Fire Code requires buildings used by the public, including hotels and schools, have fire and evacuation plans that are reviewed annually and are available for review. Evacuation drills are also required.
The Saratoga Springs information was part of a broader audit DiNapoli’s office did into municipal fire code enforcement across the state. It found similar problems in other places. Of seven cities and three villages that had their records examined, Saratoga Springs was the only local community.
“Local officials must do their part to keep fire safety a priority,” DiNapoli said in releasing the audit. “By neglecting to properly implement these regulations, New Yorkers may be at risk should a fire or other emergency occur.”
Of 17 buildings auditors checked in Saratoga Springs, nine had some deficiency in their plan, according to the audit. They included three hotels, three preschools and three private schools, none of which were named.
Most lacked a list of on-site fire hazards, fire prevention and control systems, and a list of fuel hazard sources, all of which are required, according to the audit. The three preschools all had deficient evacuation plans.
The audit also found five hotels, an assembly building and a preschool did not conduct the required number of evacuation drills in 2013, and the city Fire Prevention Bureau did not maintain records for those drills.
“The city has no assurance that drills are being performed for each building as required,” the auditors stated.
The audit recommended the city do more to ensure fire plans meet minimum standards and that it maintain better records of when such plans were reviewed and approved.
In a response included in the audit, Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen said corrective action is being taken.
In 2010 and into 2011, he said, the Fire Prevention Office was affected by staff reductions, transfers and retirements. In the future, he said, city fire inspectors will review and sign off on all plans and inspectors will spend more time educating the owners and staff of facilities that have to comply with the law.
Former City Attorney Sarah Burger, who is running against Mathiesen in a Democratic primary for public safety commissioner in September, called the audit findings “disturbing.”
“Most alarming is that of the 53 percent of buildings with deficient fire plans, there were six schools,” she said. “The audit is further evidence that this administration’s priorities are severely misguided.”