A Honolulu apartment high-rise where a blaze recently killed three people failed to update its fire alarms to meet safety standards despite an engineering firm recommending the changes after another fire four years ago, city records show.
The Associated Press acquired the engineering firm’s 2013 report, which found fire alarms in the 36-story complex did not meet the city’s fire code because they were not loud enough and did not have flashing lights. The firm recommended replacing the system.
The residential tower built in 1971 was not required, however, to meet the standards because they were not part of the fire code at that time, so property managers broke no laws. Several residents said they had trouble hearing the fire alarms during the July 14 fire, and fire safety experts say those warnings are crucial to saving lives.
The Honolulu Fire Department declined to release its inspection records for the Marco Polo building, citing the ongoing investigation. An AP review of permits filed with the city’s Department of Planning and Permitting revealed that building managers never applied for permits to upgrade the system.
The city follows the National Fire Protection Association’s 2012 standards, which require new buildings to have alarms that are loud enough to be heard in apartments, strobe lights or other visual aids installed in common areas, and hallways with smoke detectors.
Honolulu only requires older buildings to bring their alarm systems up to code during a major renovation, said Curtis Lum, spokesman for the planning department.
Building managers commissioned a fire safety assessment by the engineering firm S.S. Dannaway after the 2013 fire. It found that fire alarms within the apartments were not loud enough and recommended adding speakers to the main living areas and bedrooms of every unit.
It also said the system did not have visual triggers in hallways or common areas and didn’t detect smoke in inside hallways.
“You have to have a working…