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How to Prevent Fires in Apartments

Of course an apartment has the same fire hazards that a house would, but when a fire breaks out in one home in a building, all tenants at risk. There are also fewer options to evacuate when these situations occur as many apartment doors are inside the building.

This makes it even more crucial to not only be aware of the fire risks, but to exercise even more caution to protect the safety of everyone on the property.

On the fortunate side, there are only a few hazards to avoid in the apartment – compared to a house – that can significantly reduce the chances of a fire breaking out. Here are 10 apartment fire safety tips to keep in mind.

1. Keep a Smoke Alarm in Every Room

Check out these apartment fire safety tips to prevent a major disaster in your building.

Check out these apartment fire safety tips to prevent a major disaster in your building.

Even with small apartments, a smoke alarm in every room will let you know when there is a fire at the earliest possible time. It may also mean the difference between putting out a small fire and having to evacuate after the flames consume the majority of a room.

Also don’t forget to have them installed in the hallways, just in case the one in the affected room is not working. Lastly, make sure to change the batteries every 6 months and test each alarm to ensure they are working properly.

2. Keep Electrical Cords in Good Condition

Did you know that 51,000 fires are caused by electrical cords and appliances? Any cord with exposed wiring is a recipe for disaster: not only is it a fire hazard, but can cause serious shock when touched. If you see any cords that are worn, frayed, or damaged in any way, throw them out.

Also be aware that too many cords plugged into one outlet can easily cause a fire. One spot to be especially aware of is behind your TV. How many cords do you have plugged into one outlet? If you aren’t using a Blu-Ray, video game console, stereo, or any other electronic device, unplug it.

Fun tip: Unplugging electrical devices and cords that aren’t being used can also save money on the electric bill.

3. Do Not Run Cords Under Rugs

Organize all electrical cords to minimize the risk of fire. Unplug and remove any you don't use.

Organize all electrical cords to minimize the risk of fire. Unplug and remove any you don’t use.

Hiding cords under rugs can make the home look nicer, but it won’t look so nice after a fire started from an overheated wire. Rugs are designed to add comfort and aesthetics of the room, not cover electrical cords. Many rugs are also made from heavy, durable material and won’t provide any circulation when hiding the cord.

Instead of hiding them under rugs, try to run them alongside the walls instead, where they can cool off properly.

4. Space the Space Heaters

Space heaters can work miracles in the winter time, keeping the heating bills low and the work and home environments cozy. But because of the small space in apartments, space heaters are often the culprit of many apartment fires.

A good rule of thumb is to keep all space heaters at least 3 feet away from combustible items.

A few good places to keep space heaters include:

  • In a corner facing away from the wall
  • In an open space without kids or pets
  • Under desks and tables but away from chairs
  • In basements away from the furniture
  • Keep all combustible materials at least 3 ft away from any space heaters.

    Keep all combustible materials at least 3 ft away from any space heaters.

    In garages away from combustible items

5. Make Sure Windows Can Easily be Opened

Even if your apartment does not have a fire escape, opening a window can buy time by letting smoke filter out of the room. You may need to use some grease if it’s difficult to open or close.

6. Keep Stairwells Clear

Leaving your belongings out in the hall poses a much more dangerous risk than just having them stolen. Anything blocking stairways or halls can be lethal and will slow down the evacuation time.

Make sure that all of your belongings are safely stored either in your apartment or balcony. If you see any other contents blocking the hallway, notify your landlord to have them removed as soon as possible.

6. All Exit Lights Must be On at All Times

If a fire is able to knock out the power to a building, the exit lights should still remain on because they run on batteries. They can also light the way to escape instead of wasting time navigating in the dark to find a door. The smoke can also cause people to panic in a dark room, making the situation even worse.

At any time you see that an exit sign is not lit, notify your landlord right away to change the batteries. In the event of an emergency, you can also use the flashlight on your cell phone to light the way out.

7. Set Up and Memorize a Fire Escape Plan

Especially for people living in large apartment buildings, fire escape plans can shave off minutes of the time needed to escape in an emergency situation. If you haven’t created one yet, make sure to do so, memorize it, and show everyone living in your apartment, even your neighbors.

8. Keep an Emergency Fire Escape Kit

Always keep a fire safety kit in case you are unable to evacuate right away.

Always keep a fire safety kit in case you are unable to evacuate right away.

A fire escape kit can make all the difference if anyone is trapped in an apartment fire. A basic kit should include a mask, gloves, and fire blanket, designed to buy extra time in an emergency situation.

A fire escape mask will provide 60 minutes of filtered oxygen, an hour of fresh air if the authorities aren’t able to reach you right away. Many kits also come with glowsticks to signal to others if the power is out.

Always keep your fire escape kit stored in an easily accessible location, such as under your bed or on a shelf. Consider having 2 for safekeeping.

9. Keep the Numbers of Emergency Contacts

When a fire occurs, time is everything. Taking simple steps now can save vast amounts of time in an emergency. Keeping the numbers of emergency contacts stored on your phone instead of searching them online can make a big difference.

Here are the best contacts to have readily available during an emergency:

Keep in mind that as soon as the flames have been put out, the damage still continues. All of the byproducts produced from the flames will have covered the walls, carpeting, and your personal belongings. So in order to get the most out of your renter’s insurance, call a fire damage cleanup company right away to save as many of your belongings as possible.

10. Is Your Fire Escape Clear and Safe?

Not all apartments have them, but if yours has a fire escape, lucky you! Just make sure that nobody keeps any flowers or other obstructions outside their window that can block the stairs or walkway. Not even the most beautiful bouquet is worth jeopardizing the safety of a tenant.

Make sure to notify your landlord right away if you see anything blocking the fire escape.

If a Fire Has Already Happened

You can always rely on ServiceMaster to provide the fire cleanup services to get you back on track again.

You can always rely on ServiceMaster to provide the fire cleanup services to get you back on track again.

While many fires can be prevented by taking the steps mentioned above, renters can only control what goes on in their own apartment. So if they smell smoke wafting from the apartment below, the only course of action to take is to notify the tenant in that apartment while alerting everyone on the apartment to evacuate.

If your apartment was one of the unfortunate units to take on heavy damage from a fire, you can save many of your personal belongings by calling a fire damage repair company immediately. In addition to cleaning out the soot, they will carefully clean your belongings using special cleaning products that are designed to remove smoke and soot residue.

ServiceMaster is one of the most trusted names in the country when it comes to sprofessional restoration services. They are available 24/7 for emergencies and will respond immediately to treat your belongings, giving you the peace of mind you need. Don’t hesitate to call your local ServiceMaster after a fire to see how they can help you get back on track.

About the author

Luke Armstrong

Expert in emergency fire and water restoration services, fire cleanup and water damage cleanup, mold removal, as well as commercial and residential cleaning services, including carpet, upholstery and furniture cleaning. Contributor to several restoration and cleaning blogs.

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