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!!!

HALT, DELETE, EDIT

(blog post revision starts here)

ARE THE DOORS LOCKED… or NOT LOCKED?

ARE TENANTS ABLE – OR UNABLE – TO OPEN EMERGENCY EXIT DOORS

IF THEY NEED TO EVACUATE THIS BUILDING?

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!
 

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.

SMACK! DUH! ARRRGH!

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.

TEST RESULTS:

  • 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.

Sleepless Night

I should be sleeping. Instead, I am doing things like hanging alarms and setting little booby traps so the next person who attempts to crawl in through a window will leave DNA.

I spend my nights moving things around and finding new places to put things. In the process, I am down-sizing by pulling things out to eliminate.

Logically, it would make more sense to be on high alert in broad daylight, as the intruder who entered my home was snooping around in here while I was out shopping last Wednesday. I know this person was in my bedroom, had gone thru my things, and found hidden things. The only thing possibly missing is a few pills with little to no street value. (Possibly, as the script was filled in July and I have been using an alternative herbal medication so I had not looked at the bottle since July.) Nothing was stolen, not even small cash & carry items (easy to hide and easy to pawn) so the list of suspects was short.

I would not have known that anyone was in here if they didn’t leave clues – two easy to dismiss, could have alternative explainations, but one clue was totally undeniable: hammers do NOT cock their selves.

So what were they doing in here? As far as I can tell, they were just hanging out, perhaps avoiding the person they live with, taking a reprieve from the cold, and/or being nibby and weird.

Hopefully, the person is now aware that their activities did not go unnoticed so best not to do it again.

Anyway, this is the story behind the “Violation” poem. I am 98% sure of who this person was so logically, I have nothing to fear. It is that 2% that is keeping me awake, the off-hand chance that maybe I am wrong. Or maybe it is the sense that it is time to clean house and move things around. I need to regain the privacy and purity of my home. It feels like they left invisible muddly paw prints everywhere, tainted all my stuff and I can’t see it but I have to clean it all up.

Sorry for writing all this… the poem could stand alone, needed no explaination. I am writing this because I am very tempted tonight to do what I usually, or rather USED to do when I am calm and collected on the outside and a little messed up about something inside. I keep telling myself “not an option” as I have to deal with this without that. Thank you for reading. Maybe I can go to sleep now.