Sensor Be, Censor Me

I have become a total egress safety bee, an inadvertent advocate due to necessity, despite [mostly self] efforts to censor me.  Yes, something is wrong with the sensors at the International Towers apartment building in downtown Youngstown. Again. I wrote about it here and there before. Word has it that this time, the blue fobs AND keys failed to unlock the main egress doors from the outside.

Yes, tenants wandering home at odd hours this weekend were locked out, which may be better than being locked in… but, if keys do not work, that means even the frikkin FIRE DEPARTMENT would be locked out as they pull keys from an outdoor lockbox to open the doors.

Thank goodness firemen carry axes and big sledge hammers, eh?

At least management does acknowledge that there is a problem this time.

Main egress doors, controlled by electronic sensors.

Main egress doors, controlled by sensors.

And here is a close up snap of the sign:


Odds are, they will have someone figure out WHY the sensor failed and have it fixed ASAP as they are so concerned about non-tenants entering the building that they LOCK the OTHER exit doors (solid doors, no windows) from the INSIDE at night to stop tenants from sneaking friends into the building.

Or, so I hear… I don’t know for sure as I have not personally tested those doors in the middle of the night.  If it is true, that is a SERIOUS problem as the door at the far end of the building is a FIRE EXIT!

The sensor problem might have something to do with that pesky drip that has been hitting people in the head as they walk through the doors now for over a year. They may need to do some serious waterproofing. Or, they may just need to replace that crappy looking awning over the doorway. That in itself is an eyesore, almost as sad as the tattered American Flag on our pole.


Alas, I can almost hear staff echo words of “no money for that” as if just because most residents are impoverished means that the building owners are, too. That don’t fly with me because rental properties are a profitable business.  Just spend a little time on the owner’s website if you think otherwise.

I don’t know what the problem is… the owners are winning awards for being great landlords, and this place is going downhill. Remember the broken bench in the court yard?  (Oh, sorry… no links. I deleted those posts from last year while censoring myself.)  Here is what it looks like today:wpid-img_20150329_152342.jpg

Part of me says it don’t matter, I can walk away… go live somewhere else.

Not everyone has that option.

Sooner or later, I will move.  In the meanwhile, I find myself as an unwitting unwilling advocate here…  what’s that Nanny McPhee saying? “When you need me but do not want me, then I must stay.”

My advocacy is kind of like that, only different.

In other words, I cannot be silent when things are not right.


Push to Exit

I am done trying to explain to these people how the sensor located about the double doors in the lobby of the International Towers apartment building in downtown Youngstown controls WHEN the push bar handle is allowed to open the door to exit during the hours the door is locked, that they need to install a manual unlocking device to bring the door up to code.

We have been going round and round about it ever since I discovered the problem on January 4th, when the sensor failed to “see” me as I tried to exit the building when the door was locked.  The next day, I talked to the building manager and she said that she would have maintenance look at it.

After days passed and a test of the doors proved that the problem was not resolved, I wrote a letter about it and hand delivered it to the office.  She argued with me, insisted the sensor does NOT control egress (exit) and claimed that the push bar handle IS the manual unlocking device, it must be a handle problem, so she would have maintenance look at it.

I feel like they think I’m stupid. No one else has complained… it’s just me… I’m the only one with a problem… she has never noticed anyone waving at the sensor on the security cameras, it does not work that way, et cetera. When she told me the sensor cannot be controlling the door handle because the sensor cannot “see” people in wheelchairs because they are lower to the ground, it was all I could do to keep from slapping myself in the forehead with a “DUH!”

I can imagine Webster’s reaction to such logic… he taught “Sensors R Us” (not the official course name) at the Salem campus of KSU years ago. So what if I am the only tenant who knows that having an access-controlled egress door without a manual unlocking device is a serious safety violation. That does not mean the problem doesn’t exist… it just means that I may be the only tenant here whose background includes a tech degree in electrical/electronic engineering. The sensor has failed to “see” other tenants at night when the door is locked, even the security guard knows the sensor controls when people are allowed to exit this building. To them, it is just a little glitch, so move around until the light turns green and try again.

Maintenance did take a look at the door. They found ice somewhere on the door frame and concluded that the door must have “stuck” on me due to ice, that the door had froze shut.


Why am I smacking myself in the forehead? I should smack theirs like a TV evangelist and declare them healed from techie ignorance, but the only thing that would accomplish is to get myself evicted and arrested for simple assault.

So, okay… they fixed the problem by removing ice and argue down anything I say so, fine…  told the staff member that I will wait until night when the doors are locked and test the doors again.

TEST #2:

On January 20, 2015 just before 10:30pm, with three witnesses:

  • I was able to approach the doors without triggering the sensor.
  • While the sensor light was RED, I pushed on the door handle to exit. It would NOT open.
  • Then I waved my hand at the sensor (instead of just moving my body) until it “saw” me.
  • While the sensor light was GREEN, I pushed on the door handle to exit. It easily opened.
  • To conclude the test, I waved at the security camera.


  • The door was locked, not stuck by ice or anything.
  • The door handle push bar does manually open the door.
  • The sensor controls WHEN the handle is ALLOWED to open the door.
  • The door IS an access-controlled egress.
  • There is NO manual way to open the door to exit when it is locked at night.
  • The problem is NOT resolved.
  • A manual unlocking device needs to be installed per Ohio code.

Is code compliance is too much to ask?

All I want is a gadget… a manual unlocking device as specified in Ohio code 1008.1.4.4 (c) which states “the doors shall be arranged to unlock from a manual unlocking device located 40 inches to 48 inches vertically above the floor and within 5 feet of the secured doors. Ready access shall be provided to the manual unlocking device and the device shall be clearly identified by a sign that reads “PUSH TO EXIT.” When operated, the manual unlocking device shall result in a direct interruption of power to the lock – independent of the access control system electronics – and the door shall remain unlocked for a minimum of 30 seconds.”

The problem is, they think that the push bar handle IS the manual unlocking device.  They refuse to acknowledge that their sensor system does not work the way they think it does.

I raised the issue as a question when Youngstown’s Chief Fire Inspector Marcia Harris was here for our fire safety meeting and an IT staff member quickly shot me down with the ice story and the fact that I am the only one who complains, going on about the need to control who comes into the building at night, which is not the issue at all. After the meeting, the inspector was flanked by IT staff in the hallway and there was too many people trying to exit the room, so I did not get a chance to talk to her. I was hoping to ask her if she could explain to these people that you cannot have a sensor control when a “manual unlocking device” is allowed to work.

Should I write Ms. Harris a letter?

I’m done trying to explain it… they must think I’m stupid, just another dumb disabled person so fine… I will pack my own “manual unlocking device” in my evacuation bag so I can use it if the sensor fails to unlock the door in the event of an emergency, although odds are that another tenant will beat me to it with a chair or cane or anything else they can get their hands on.

Manual Unlocking Device

Manual Unlocking Device

After all, the doors are glass. Thanks for reading!

UPDATE 3/3/2015: Door was brought up to code. You can read about that here.

Sneak Peek Inside

Okay, so I am tickled with my crown molding. It took me a bit to figure out how to cut the angles to make it all fit right. The light source in the photo is an LED flashlight stuck in the stairwell. I did not wire this for lighting because I want to use the new style of wireless lamps that run on watch batteries. Only one problem: I’ve yet to FIND then in half scale (1:24 ratio) and they don’t even make what I want in full scale. Oh well… might have to make that, too.

Thanks for peeking!