While any fire is a tragic occurrence, they can be even more so in a multi-unit residential building. With so many people living in close proximity to one another and limited escape routes, being prepared for a fire in an apartment building is smart, though often overlooked. With that said, these fire safety tips for apartment buildings might save your life one day.

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Statistics show most apartment fires start in the kitchen. Avoid leaving food unattended while cooking. Unused burners on the stove should always be shut off. Avoid wearing draping sleeves when cooking, as these can come into contact with burners and ignite. Frying with hot grease should be done with extreme caution. Many people keep potholders on the stove and hang dishtowels on oven doors. This invites fire, don’t do it. If a kitchen fire is burning grease, throw baking soda on it to put it out. Throwing water on a grease fire will spread the flames.

As romantic as they are, candles can be deadly. Always extinguish them before leaving a room. Be careful to place them far away from curtains, sofas and other items prone to combustion. Candles should also be put out before falling asleep.

If your apartment has a fireplace, be especially vigilant when it is in use and make sure the chimney is cleaned regularly. Wait until the fire has been out for several hours before removing ashes to reduce the possibility of smoldering embers—and never place them in a flammable container. Space heaters should also be given a wide berth. Do not place them near furniture, drapes, or curtains. Avoid using them on carpeting as well. Like candles and fireplaces, they should never be left unattended and always switched off before you fall asleep. 


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Smoking in bed is a very bad idea. Store matches and lighters out of the reach of children. Hot ashes from smoking materials falling onto upholstery can also be a source of fire. Be very careful when smoking on cloth furniture or in homes with carpeting. If you are a landlord, make sure you download a smoking addendum to be clear on your house rules.

Power strips for entertainment systems and computers are preferred to extension cords because they have circuit breakers, which will trip if they overheat. If a cord gets cut, replace it rather than splice it back together with electrical tape. Splices can build up heat and cause a fire. If an electrical fire starts in your apartment do not throw water on it as you could electrocute yourself. Baking soda, or an extinguisher rated for electrical fires are your best bets.

Every residence is required by law to have a smoke detector in each bedroom and outside of each sleeping area. These should be tested monthly to ensure they are functioning properly. If they start making that annoying chirping sound, replace the battery—rather than removing it to silence the device. Once a detector has been in use for 10 years replace it. Batteries should be replaced every six months, whether they’re depleted or not.

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A fire extinguisher should be a fixture in every apartment. It should be kept in plain sight and always in the same place so you won’t have to think about where it is when you need it. The extinguisher should be tested every six months to ensure it is properly charged and functioning. When you get a new extinguisher, take a moment to familiarize yourself with its operation. Some require you to pull a pin to use them. Make sure everyone in your home knows what is required to operate it quickly and effectively. When purchasing an extinguisher, get one rated for both grease fires and electrical fires.

When moving into a new building, take some time to familiarize yourself with every possible exit. A fire could block your usual exit from your apartment or the building, so find another way out in advance. Take note of every stairwell, paying particular attention to the location of the ones nearest your unit. Make sure their doors are always closed when not in use to slow the spread of flames should the building ever catch fire.

Create a fire plan and run drills to be sure everyone in your family knows what to do and where to meet if you must exit the apartment separately. If you have pets, decide in advance who grabs which animal and takes it to safety. Use the stairs to exit rather than the elevator. Fire could disable the elevator with you in it. Stay as low as possible to avoid breathing smoke and touch doors before you open them to see if they’re warm. Opening a warm door can invite flames to rush in to feed on the oxygen in the room around you. Seal the door with wet towels or bedding and find an alternative exit. Once you escape the building, stay out until you’re given the all clear by the fire department. You can also protect yourself by getting yourself renter's insurance for only a nominal fee a month.

Yes, this is a lot to take in, but these fire safety tips for apartment buildings could be the difference between surviving a fire and perishing in it. If you’re currently apartment hunting, your local fire department’s website can provide you with the information you need to ensure buildings meet the fire code. If you find a building doesn’t, report it to the fire department immediately. You could save lives.

Download all the necessary legal documents, including standard house rules and regulations, for free on our DocBox.
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