SAN ANTONIO - Thousands of San Antonio families live in apartments. When there's a fire, smoke alarms can be the difference between life and death. However, a News 4 WOAI Trouble Shooters investigation has found only about half of the apartments inspected by the fire department this year have the required number of smoke detectors.
This past January, for the first time ever, the fire department began inspecting all of the more than 1,500 registered apartment complexes in San Antonio. They’re checking to see how many are complying with the city's new smoke detector ordinance.
They've completed more than 600 inspections so far, and the results: 49% of the units failed the inspection.
Division Chief and Deputy Fire Marshall Christopher Monestier says the department is disappointed.
“We were hoping to see better compliance. We have had some complexes claim they just weren't aware of the requirement”.
Apartment communities had two full years to make changes, since the ordinance was passed in 2010. The ordinance requires a smoke alarm be installed in every sleeping area, and right outside each bedroom door as well.
Before the new ordinance was passed, apartments in San Antonio were only required to have a smoke detector in a common area, such as a hallway leading to the bedrooms.
The San Antonio Apartment Association worked with the fire department to publicize the new ordinance, and it downplayed the nearly 50% inspection failure rate. The association says complexes will likely make the required changes after flunking inspection.
“I understand that doesn’t sound like a great number, but the fact that they are coming into compliance is the most important thing”, says the Apartment Association’s Teri Bilby.
Apartment complexes that fail the inspection have two weeks to come into compliance. After that a citation is issued, which could result in a fine of up to $2,000.
The fire department is sending the message that the long grace period for making apartments safe is over. Inspectors want to hear from tenants who live in apartments that haven’t made the required changes. The number to call is (210) 207-8410.