Seven Steps to Help Make Your Residential Property More Fire Resistant
In association with National Fire Prevention month, Property Management Insider is featuring a series of fire awareness and prevention articles.
Apartment fires can start anywhere on a complex: in units, on the grounds, in offices, or common areas. The most common fires are kitchen fires, but there are many other areas where a dwelling can go up in flames.
Given we’re in National Fire Prevention month, now is a great time to look at ways to maintain a fire-resistant apartment community. Prevention is a responsibility that should be shared by both the property manager (and staff) and the resident, but the on-site staff at an apartment property can take the lead by following a few key steps, many of which are can be found on the American Red Cross and the National Fire Protection Association websites.
Perform Routine Property Inspections
Routinely inspect the residential property for any kind of broken wiring or flammable materials being stored near heat sources. Make sure that cleaning supplies, any kind of paint, paint thinner, or paint remover are stored at least three feet away from heat sources. Check laundry rooms for accumulation of dust and lint, which can be ignited by hot dryers. Have the dryer vents cleaned on a regular basis.
Be Familiar with Local Fire Codes
Codes can change. Make friends with the local fire department inspectors so that you fully understand compliance.
Maintain Sprinkler Systems
Apartment units in some areas are required by code to have sprinkler systems and have them inspected periodically. In between inspections, property owners should make sure the system is functional at all times. Also, knowledge of the access code is imperative.
Check Fire Alarms & Smoke Detectors
If there are fire alarms on the property, make sure inspections are current and that they are in working order. And while you’re at it, make sure the smoke detectors in common areas have fresh batteries.
Educate Residents and Staff
Property staff, whether office workers or the folks in maintenance, should be able to identify fire hazards. Educate residents about fire safety by inviting the local fire department or Red Cross for a seminar. The fire department may be able to park an engine out front, which will get the kids involved as well.
Inspect Fire Extinguishers
Inspect fire extinguishers monthly or quarterly to make sure the pressure and contents are optimum. There are local businesses with whom you can contract to have this done, and they can recharge extinguishers as needed. Have the fire department meet with residents to demonstrate how to properly work a fire extinguisher. Most household fire extinguishers empty in about eight seconds, and are not effective – as is true of any fire extinguisher – if not sprayed at the base of the fire. Staff should know how to operate all fire extinguishers on the property.
Enforce Outdoor Grilling Policies
Visually inspect balconies for grills, smokers, cookers, chimineas, or other outdoor fireplaces. Even if your residential property has a policy that prohibits outdoor or balcony grilling, often residents may not be familiar with it or choose to ignore the rules.
Owners and managers of an apartment complex need to not only be prepared in the event of a fire but know how to prevent one. Being familiar with what to look for and understanding how fires start go a long way toward preventing a disaster. Following these and other steps can make a difference for you and your residents.