Back Doors (REVISED)

ORGstar3Yes, I am the egress safety bee… as sick as y’all are about me talking about doors, documenting the saga of the doors is more than an irate tenant whining about nonsense. There are 173 apartments in this high rise building located in downtown Youngstown.  All units are rented by elderly and/or disabled Americans.  I talk and write about it because change needs rendered before someone ends up dead.

This is the first place that I have ever lived where I felt the need to sleep with an evacuation bag and lay my shoes (and coat in winter) out where I can grab them on my way out the door at a moments notice any time day or night. I cannot count the number of times fire trucks have pulled up to this building. I have evacuated down the stairs so often that I do not hesitate nor panic when I hear the alarms. It feels more like a “fire drill” than the real thing, and most tenants do not even bother to evacuate because they know that most fire alarms here are the result of smoke from failed cooking attempts setting off the alarm in a hallway.  But, there have been minor fires here, real fires from a microwave meltdown and other things, and at least one major fire years ago that resulted in a fatality.

There are two stairwells here for emergency evacuations, one on each end of the building. Naturally, tenants should avoid elevators and head to their nearest stairwell. There is only one problem… when tenants reach the ground floor, the emergency exit doors are FRIKKIN LOCKED!!!


(blog post revision starts here)




South "Back Door" emergency exit, also used for various purposes during business hours.

South “Back Door” emergency exit, also used for various purposes during business hours.

It depends on who you talk to…

Three staff members have told me that the doors are set at 5pm to sound an alarm for five minutes when the emergency exit door is opened from the inside, that it works the way it is supposed to, that tenants CAN open the door from the inside, and of course, it cannot be opened from the outside.

Three different tenants have told me that they have tried to open the emergency exit door from the inside only to discover that the door CANNOT be opened from the inside.

One of our security guards told me that the emergency exit doors must be locked down so they CANNOT be opened from the inside at night to “keep sex offenders out” which makes no sense at all because the doors would still be locked from the outside.  A tenant would have to open the emergency exit to let the sex offender in… and who would do that? It is more like tenants sneaking their… uh… shall we say, their Independent Recreational Pharmaceutical Representative and/or other guests who do not wish to sign in at a desk and show a state issued ID to a security guard?

Bottom line is… if they have a problem with a tenant using the emergency exit door to bypass security, the problem is with that particular tenant.  It is illegal to lock down emergency exit doors.  Staff THINKS it is unlocked, a security guard SAYS it is locked, and some tenants FOUND it locked.

So, are the doors locked or not? 
If they are locked and staff isn’t locking down the doors, who is?

Well, to answer the first question… there is only one way to find out:  Test the doors.

Yes, random tests by pairs of tenants – one to try to open an emergency exit door while the other videos the test with a cell phone for documentation. Then submit a report of test date, time, and results to management with a copy for the tenant association.

Random tests by tenants… as in tenants should occasionally test the emergency exit doors on an ongoing basis because we live here, it is our safety at stake, and we need to know that we CAN evacuate this building as necessary.

As for the second question? Hopefully, there will be no need to ask.

And by the way… there was a SHORT in the sensor system on the main egress doors causing it to malfunction. It was installed by a third party company – NOT a DIY installation by maintenance staff – so when the short caused problems, other problems were discovered (such as the omission of the manual unlocking device) that I blogged about in Push to Exit with and update here.

Yes, a talk with a staff member today clarified some things and helped to ease some of the tensions caused by failed attempts to communicate effectively.  And that’s why I updated this blog post.

Thanks for reading!


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.

UPDATE: Push to Exit

I would like to commend International Towers for having our main egress doors brought up to code with the installation of a manual unlocking device to drop the sensor in the event of sensor failure.  I would also like to thank whoever convinced staff that it was necessary.  Lord knows it was not me… we went round and round about it, I blogged about it here.

Does it work? I don’t know… I haven’t tested it yet… Should I test it?

I think tenants should test all exits periodically. After all, it is our safety at stake.

Thanks for reading!