Poorly-designed fire escapes in San Francisco, CA aren’t just useless in an emergency—they can prove to be quite unsafe in plenty of other situations as well. As building codes get better, fire escapes might seem obsolete. Tenants use balcony-like fire escapes to hold their plants, or as outdoor gathering spaces during parties—often with deadly consequences.
If you have the worst kind of fire escape in your building, make sure that you only use it in case of emergency, and ask your building manager how they keep the fire escapes safe and well maintained for the tenants.
The party balcony fire escape
You’re probably familiar with traditional fire escapes, with narrow ladders that drop between balconies to help people exit a building. Exterior screen fire escapes are even safer, featuring shoulder-high railings or screens to protect people as they descend to the street. Both of these fire escapes are generally safe and reliable during emergencies, as long as they’re well maintained.
However, if you have a party balcony fire escape, you aren’t quite so well protected—and you should start thinking about other ways to evacuate your building if the situation arises.
The party balcony fire escape is a small balcony between two windows in different apartments or offices. The balconies don’t have ladders or stairs to get down to the street. Instead, the idea is that if your apartment is on fire, you can go out the window and enter the next apartment. From there, you are supposed to get out of the building through stairways and doors.
If this sounds like poor planning, you’re not the only one who thinks so. After all, what happens if the other apartment is also consumed by flames? What if the windows are locked, or blocked? Moreover, the biggest danger with party balconies is the possibility of overcrowding. As a Bay Area resident, you’re probably familiar with stories of balconies collapsing, which can be fatal for the people on the balcony as well as any unfortunate people who happen to be standing below.
Critics of the party balcony also point to the fact that they’re not just dangers to residents, but to the first responders who arrive to help. If a balcony collapses during a rescue, it can cause serious injuries and death.
There are two other non-fire-related drawbacks to party balconies. First, thieves and vandals can use them to enter multiple apartments. Second, many people are tempted to use the fire escape as a balcony during parties (hence the name), despite the fact that they’re not able to support the weight of multiple adults.
If you have a party balcony fire escape in your building, make sure that you know how much weight it can support—but you should also have another fire escape plan in place, such as purchasing window ladders. It could mean the difference between life and death.
For more information about balcony fire escapes and suitable replacements in San Francisco, CA, contact Great Escape Fire Escape Service today.