3/19/14 Email to Councilman Kyle Anderson re: Security Bars

Politics as usual…  A letter by Hartford City Councilman Kyle Anderson was published in the June 19 – 26 edition of the Hartford News. Anderson said that he was contacted by me only about fire safety at the Bowles Park housing project. As the email below shows, Anderson is talking out of his ass. In the email I expressed grave concern that Mayor Pedro Segarra and Hartford Fire Department Captain James McLoughlin were playing political games over the issue of fire safety in Hartford apartment buildings. Anderson did not respond. Buildings that I photographed in North Hartford in March were equipped with security bars which do not have a quick release device that can be opened from the inside; a report by the Philadelphia Fire Department stated security bars that do not have the quick release device are a fire hazard, as residents can become trapped in their homes and firefighters could be delayed gaining entry into a building because of the bars. I distributed flyers to Bowles Park, Westbrook Village and North Hartford residents who told me that their units were equipped with security bars that did not include the quick release device.

During an interview I conducted with McLoughlin, he admitted that the Bedford Street apartment building where four-year-old Shantay Drake and her mother Susan Therien perished in a fire earlier this year was equipped with security bars which did NOT have the quick release device. Initial media reports, which included a quote from McLoughlin, indicated that HFD firefighters were delayed getting to Shantay’s mother because she was trapped by the security bars. I named Anderson in a Freedom of Information request due to the total lack of cooperation by the City of Hartford and the HFD regarding this issue. Anderson’s letter is obviously a politically motivated response to my FOI request, and a poor response at that. The columns that I wrote about this fire safety issue are available in the archive section of this blog site.

David Samuels


Community Party

—–Original Message—–
From: ok
To: andek002
Sent: Wed, Mar 19, 2014 9:56 pm
Subject: Bedford Street Fire / Security Bars


This is a follow up to the voicemail message I left for your aide over the weekend. I’m a community activist; I write a weekly column for the Hartford News. I interviewed HFD Captain James McLoughlin about the January Bedford Street fire that killed Shantay Drake and her mother, Susan Therrien. Captain McLoughlin would not respond to my question about whether or not he would support an ordinance that would require the security bars on Hartford residences be replaced with bars which include a quick release device that can be opened from the inside. I’m appalled to see that a member of the HFD and Mayor Pedro Segarra would choose to play political games over an issue which the Philadelphia Fire Department has identified as a serious fire hazard (see column). Segarra’s spokesperson, Maribel La Luz, was copied on the email exchanges between McLoughlin and myself. I have been taking photos of buildings in North Hartford which have security bars all around the first floor windows. People could easily become trapped inside during a fire, and firefighters could be delayed entering these residences as the PFD report points out. I was told that you are head of the public safety committee. I would like to discuss this matter further with you.
David Samuels
The Bedford Street Fire Tragedy: An Interview with HFD Captain James McLoughlin

This column appears in the March 13 – 20 edition of the Hartford News…  On January 28th a fire at a home on Bedford Street took the lives of 4-year-old Shantay Drake and her mother, Susan Therrien. Multiple media outlets reported that Hartford firefighters were delayed entering the home by security bars on the windows. I contacted Maribel La Luz, Mayor Pedro Segarra’s Communications Director, about these reports. La Luz referred me to Hartford Fire Department Captain Mark McLoughlin. My questions focused on the city’s low income residents as some live in buildings which are not properly maintained by landlords, consequently building code violations may include fire safety systems.
 I would like to know if the HFD, Mayor Segarra, City Council President Shawn Wooden and the council members intend to examine fire safety in low income housing, since firefighters were delayed entering the Bedford Street apartment by security bars. Obviously, this scenario could happen again. 
Captain McLoughlin:  
    The City of Hartford Fire Department is working on a comprehensive inspection program for ALL city residents.
·        This is not accurate. Firefighters were not delayed in entering the Bedford St home, even though there were security bars on the building.
S      Samuels:
H        A source told me that the HFD was going to prepare a briefing on the Bedford Street fire that would be shared with the public. Is this correct?  
           Captain McLoughlin:
                A briefing is being prepared, however is not ready for release at this time.
l            Samuels:  
               Has there been any discussion about providing fire safety training to low income housing residents?  
             Captain McLoughlin:    
T                 The HFD has a Public Education Program that addresses Fire Safety for ALL of Hartford’s residents
                I  need some clarification… You said that firefighters were not delayed, but this quote from the Courant appears to contradict that observation,
“             ”The girl’s mother was at a side window, he said, but there was a problem: The same bars designed to keep out intruders were blocking her rescue.
               Firefighters had to rip out security bars to get her out, McLoughlin said — a process that he estimates took no more than a few minutes.” 
               The Philadelphia Fire Department considers security bars on windows to be a danger to city residents. http://www.phila.gov/fire/pdfs/Security_Bars_and_Lo.pdf The PFD specifically cites security bars as causing delays in fire rescues, “ Security bars and double-keyed dead bolts installed without knowledge of their effects during a fire have too often resulted in occupants being trapped inside a burning home, and have also delayed the rescue efforts of firefighters.”
      PFD lists the following recommendations: Security bars should be equipped with a quick release device that can be opened from the inside. Occupants should know how to operate the quick release device on barred windows. The bars on an emergency escape window and at least one of the bedroom windows should be equipped with a quick release device that opens from the inside. 
I      I’m assuming that the bars on the Bedford Street home did not have the quick release device. Don’t you think this is a problem that the HFD should examine?
       Captain McLoughlin:      

        The quote from the paper was information that was released at the scene. Since that time, a comprehensive review has been determined that the mother was actually rescued by firefighters out the rear door. No one was rescued through the window as was stated at the scene.
        I appreciate the reference to the Philadelphia Fire Department, however the Hartford Fire Department has to apply the codes which are enforced here in CT. Please be aware that no bedrooms at the Bedford St location had security bars on them, not even one.
        The security bars on the Bedford St home did not have quick release devices, however, the fact that there were security bars on some of the windows, had absolutely NO impact on the firefighters ability to enter the home, rescue occupants, put the fire out and ventilate the building. The HFD is examining this issue within the scope of their inspection program.

       Regardless of whether or not the rescue of an occupant of this particular home was delayed by security bars, the Bedford Street home is just one building out of many in this city. I must say, I’m deeply disturbed to hear that the PFD report is not enough justification for the HFD to address the fact that security bars without the quick release device are a dangerous fire hazard. My concern is that someone will have to die in the manner that the PFD describes before the HFD and the City of Hartford will follow the PFD report recommendations.  Would you support an ordinance which would make security bars with the quick release device mandatory?
Note: McLoughlin did not respond to my final question.


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