Unsafe conditions on a property can lead to serious injuries for visitors and guests on the property. But even first responders can be at risk. That is why Ohio mandates signage to alert firefighters that there may be dangerous conditions inside vacant buildings. Per the Ohio Fire Code, vacated buildings with structural issues must place a bright red sign with a white "X" in the window of the building. Firefighters then only enter the building if there is a life hazard. If not, then they fight the fire from the outside.
The fire department also helps the property owners of these dangerous buildings to fix the structural issues. The fire code signs don't prevent workers from going inside to fix the problems and once the problems are corrected the signs can come down.
The fire inspector looks at commercial properties and determines whether or not there is a structural issue. If so, then the inspector tells the building permit office who relays the information to the property owner. Owners then have a structural engineer come to assess the situation and if there is a problem, a warning sign is put up.
Although a good start, the fire code signs don't solve everything. Building neighbors may still be at risk since many share walls with the unsafe structures and fires can spread quickly in such close proximity. There are other ways to make sure that property owners maintain safe premises, including charging fees for vacant buildings.
Vacant buildings are ripe for premises liability actions. These structures are not regularly maintained and may easily contain many dangerous conditions. Even if empty, property owners are still liable for any injuries that are incurred as the result of a dangerous condition that the owner knew about or should have known about.
Source: The Marietta Times, "Unsafe buildings," Sam Shawver, July 10, 2013