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CHICAGO-Owners and managers of high-rise office and multifamily buildings will be required to file evacuation plans with the city. Although many property managers have already conducted evacuation drills in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the city council is expected to approve an ordinance requiring written evacuation plans later this month.

“Anyone who owns a high-rise building, they have a responsibility, and we’re going to be working with them on fire safety or police safety in any building in an emergency,” says Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, who introduced the ordinance. “More stringent evacuation measures need to be put in place in high-rise buildings to ensure that the occupants are able to get out safely.”

The rules apply to any building higher than 80 feet.

“We recognize that many people feel uneasy about working and living in high-rises following the events of September 11 and we know we must do all we can to ease those fears and also put in place the best plans for evacuating those types of buildings,” says Office of Emergency Communications Director Cortez Trotter.

Owners will be required to file plans with the city’s office of emergency communications. They will be reviewed annually, according to Daley’s proposed ordinance, for possible updates. Violators will be subject to fines ranging from $500 to $10,000.

“Providing building safety is our primary concern,” says Buildings Commissioner Mary Richardson-Lowry. “The people who work in and visit these high-rise buildings need to know that those building owners and managers have developed a plan in the event of an emergency situation.”

If approved, owners and managers will have 60 days to prepare their evacuation plans and turn them into the emergency communications. They will then have six months to conduct the first safety drill under that plan.

Practice evacuations will be required at least once every six months in office buildings and once a year in residential high-rises. Each tenant of the building will be given a copy of the detailed plan under the ordinance.

The plan will require owners and managers to designate a fire safety director, who will be responsible for maintaining the certificate of fitness for the building, as well as at least one deputy to serve in that role in the director’s absence. Also, high-rise buildings will be required to designate building evacuation supervisors, fire wardens and emergency evacuation teams. As those people move on, replacements must be trained, according to the ordinance.

The fire safety director and deputies will be required to conduct monthly inspections with an eye toward hazards in a potential evacuation. They also will be in charge of any evacuation of their buildings, as will building evacuation supervisors in the absence of the director or their deputies. Fire wardens will be in chance of knowing evacuation procedures and exits as well as overseeing evacuations from their floors.

“Many buildings already conduct drills, but this ordinance will ensure that everyone does this on a regular basis,” says Fire Commissioner James Joyce.

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