Guest blogger: Historic Albany Foundation
When you see a Red “X” on a vacant building, it indicates to “first responders”-police officers, fire department staff and building department staff, that the building is considered unsafe for emergency personnel. For first responder safety and as a precautionary measure, the Red “X” symbols are being installed on vacant buildings that have been inspected and deemed unsafe for emergency response personnel to enter. It advises extreme caution and that all emergency responders should limit fire fighting to outside operations only, and to enter inside only if there are known life hazards such as a person trapped inside.
The Red “X” does not show that the building is to be demolished or rehabbed or otherwise. The safety hazards present in a building can be holes in the floor, missing fire escapes, missing or unsafe stairs, and open roofs among other potential safety hazards.
WHAT IS THE PROCESS?
The City of Albany’s Fire Department is systematically inspecting vacant buildings to determine which buildings require a Red “X”. Once a building has been inspected by the Fire Department, the building is referred to their Fire Investigation Unit to determine if the building should be posted with a “X”.
There are also code violations and those are sent to the Department of Buildings and Regulatory Compliance which will begin the process to make the building safer. Further documentation such as a structural engineer’s report may be requested by the Department of Buildings and Regulatory Compliance from the owner to determine the building’s structural stability. If the code violations are not cleared up satisfactorily, the property owner can be cited and requested to appear in Codes and/or Vacant Building Court. The “X” buildings are scheduled to be inspected by the Fire Department twice a year.
WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFO.?
An FAQ about “X” installation and a link to the code can be found on the Albany Fire Department website.
WHO CAN I CONTACT?
In Albany, questions can be directed to the Albany Fire Department at (518) 447-7879 or the Department of Buildings and Regulatory Compliance at (518) 434-5165.
WHY ARE VACANT BUILDINGS MARKED WITH “X”s?
The 2015 International Fire Code, which was adopted by New York State and followed by the City of Albany, requires fire departments to placard unsafe vacant buildings. The relevant section is 311.5, which can be found on the back of this sheet. The full code can be found here.