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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

EPD Exempt From Fire Safety Regulations

Post Ghost Ship Fire:
'Do As We Say, Not As We Do'

Fire Trap at Emeryville Police Department

After the deaths of 36 people in Oakland’s Ghost Ship Fire on December 2nd, East Bay municipalities, looking to avoid appearing cavalier about public safety in the face of intense and building public scrutiny, have been on a tear seeking to root out fire hazards.  In Oakland and Berkeley they've already started finding violations in makeshift warehouse live/work housing settlements.  In Emeryville, they only need to look in the mirror. 
Behold the newly remodeled Emeryville Police Department 2nd floor public lobby: fine so long as there’s not a fire…but if there is, you’re gunna die.  That’s because the only way out besides the elevator is through a set of locked doors that lead to a stairway to the outside and safety; a clear cut major fire code violation.  And a major public safety hazard.

The Alameda County Fire Department as well as the city manager of the City of Emeryville, the chief of police and the chief building inspector have all known about this problem for years as a result of numerous public complaints.  But they've been kicking this embarrassing public safety violation can down the road all that time leaving the fire safety issue still unresolved.  After December 2nd, there will be perhaps a new found sense of urgency. 

Death Trap
The police department's public lobby.
Doors on the left open up to stairs that lead outside.
But during a fire (and all other times as well),
they're locked.
The public officials were all alerted to the condition after the City undertook a major $2.7 million taxpayer funded remodel, finished in 2012.  The construction work which took two years to complete was done ostensibly to improve public safety but the public was safer before when the building's escape stairs weren’t located behind set of permanently locked doors says a fire department employee. The source within the Alameda County Fire Department who wished to remain anonymous agrees the newly remodeled lobby at the police department is a public fire hazard that should be addressed but doesn’t hold much hope for a fix. 

While the City of Emeryville starts its search for fire code violations amid artist's home/studios and local businesses, the hypocrisy is not lost on the fire department employee,  "All businesses in Emeryville are required to have annual fire inspections, however government buildings are not under the same scrutiny. It's a loophole that allows violations to slip through the cracks”, the anonymous source told the Tattler.

It was conjectured that the reason the doors at the police station became permanently locked as part of the remodel, was to save police personnel the trouble of having to fumble for keys as they traverse through two doors that would have been constructed on either side of the former public stairway if public safety had been foremost in the City's mind during the remodel planning stage.

Notified that the Tattler would make this public safety hazard public and perhaps not sensing any irony, officials at the Emeryville Police Department refused to unlock the door for photo documentation of the formerly public stairs for this story.  They also refused comment for this story as did City Hall officials and Alameda County Fire Department officials, save the one employee who wished anonymity.


  1. OMG This is so wrong.

  2. Don't you think the police would unlock the door if there was a fire?

    1. Maybe they would. Or maybe they would panic amid the smoke and the confusion and run out themselves, forgetting and leaving the doors locked. That's why fire egress codes are written; to make it so people's lives aren't dependent on clear thinking heroes. People should be able to exit on their own.

  3. Well, at least the doors are glass, so they can be broken. Just hang an axe on the wall next to them. Problem solved.

    1. I can see it now, grannies circling fire axes over their heads smashing glass, reaching through the shards to unlock the door backwards with their arthritic hands and then pull the door open. Should work even better when the choking smoke is thick.