Memorandum in Opposition to Bill No. A10201/S0768 Emergency Evacuation and Preparedness Plans for Individuals with Disabilities

Bill No. A10201/S0768

Sponsors: Skoufis

The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) is a trade association comprised of 17,000 owners, builders, brokers, managers, and other real estate professionals active in the real estate industry.

REBNY opposes A10201/S0768 which requires owners to establish and maintain emergency evacuation and preparedness plans for individuals with disabilities within commercial and residential high-rise buildings or face a penalty of $500 for non-compliance.

REBNY appreciates the bill’s intention to ensure that there is an evacuation plan in place for individuals with disabilities; however, it would be difficult to effectively implement this bill in a way that ensures proper safekeeping of these individuals.

- Section 378-a.1 which requires building staff and residents to be trained to assist with a wide range of disabilities, including partial or full paralysis, blindness and hearing loss, to name a few, would be impossible to implement safely. The provision fails to consider the impracticality of assigning and coordinating evacuation responsibilities in buildings which are not staffed outside of normal operating hours, thereby, relying upon tenants who may not be available to assist during emergency situations. In the event assistance is provided, these mandated providers could further be subject to liability for shortcomings arising from a faulty evacuation.

- Section 378-a.2(a) requires owners to implement written standards for evacuating individuals with disabilities and could conflict with other procedures. For example, building staff generally relies upon first responders on whether to evacuate a building. The bill might unduly suggest to building staff and residents to evacuate individuals with disabilities rather than wait for instructions by first responders.

- Section 378-a.2(b-c) which requires owners to collect a list of individuals with disabilities requiring assistance could subject owners to additional discrimination violations during evictions proceedings if they are required to maintain this list.

- Finally, NYC recently implemented requirements for Emergency Action Plans (EAP) for high-rise commercial buildings that go beyond many of the areas covered by this legislation. For residential buildings, the safest location recommended by the NYC Fire Department within many high-rise buildings that are fire-rated is within the unit itself, thus, adding to confusion as to which policies to follow.

For the foregoing reasons, REBNY strongly opposes this bill.