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City Publishes Fire Safety Compliance Information For High-Rises

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Lake Shore Drive Fire

The scene after a deadly fire in the high-rise at 3130 N. Lake Shore Dr. early Sunday. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — The Emanuel administration is making important safety information for high-rise buildings available online, after a woman died in a horrific fire last month.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced in a news release Friday morning that the city will begin publishing the Life Safety Evaluation status for hundreds of high-rise buildings throughout the city.

On Friday, residents could start searching for fire safety information about specific residential buildings, which are required to submit reports to identify their status. The information is available here, and will be updated monthly.

The website indicates approval of 292 buildings’ life safety evaluations; the rejection of 328 others. Ninety-six of them have resubmitted revised plans to upgrade their buildings. There’s been no response from the other 232, CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levin reports.

High-rise safety consultant Michael McMahon says the website doesn’t help residents looking for specifics about their buildings. But he said it could prompt people to start asking questions.

So do city officials.

“The mayor did specifically tell me that he wanted me to insure that the Department of Buildings does not hide behind bureaucracy and that the building owners can’t hide behind the Department of Buildings,” Building Commissioner Michael Merchant said.

More than 600 buildings around the city are required to provide a Life Safety Evaluation report, which is used to determine the fire safety status, and if necessary, map out steps that must be taken for compliance.

Reports must be filed by Feb. 10, and the city may take action against building owners who do not comply.

“The city will do whatever it can to ensure that buildings are able to comply with the law and ensure this essential work gets done,” the mayor said in the release.

The city is also approving permits for buildings that are upgrading their safety procedures.

The move comes after Shantel McCoy, 32, was killed in the wee hours of the morning on Jan. 8, when an extra-alarm fire broke out in the high-rise where she lived at 3130 N. Lake Shore Dr.

McCoy, 32, died in the fire when she unwittingly got on an elevator to her floor, where the fire broke out, and was greeted by intense heat and smoke. Nine others, including two firefighters, were injured. Most of the residents were asleep when the fire broke out.

The building dates from 1952, and as of a couple of weeks ago had not submitted plans to upgrade its fire safety features and meet city approval, according to published reports.

A 2004 city ordinance required all high-rises built before a 1975 fire ordinance to set up voice communication systems, sprinkler systems or other suppression mechanisms, and fireproofing to protect stairwells and openings on balconies or vestibules. The ordinance ordered these changes by Jan. 1 of this year.

But aldermen recently voted to push back the mandate another three years.

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