Basement apartments can offer a convenient living space for those looking for rental deals and can be as spacious as—or even more spacious than—above-ground apartments. However, while an apartment in a basement can sometimes be even safer than above-ground apartments, especially during a tornado, there are a number of safety concerns you may face. Follow a few tips to make your basement lifestyle safer.
1. Make Sure the Apartment Is Up to Code
Any honest landlord and apartment complex owner will make sure that basement apartments are up to code. However, there may be a few who want to make more money and simply put some furniture in a basement area. A safe basement apartment is not as simple as that. The space must be completely redesigned so that wiring, plumbing, gas lines and heating systems are all safe.
If you’re doubtful, or even if you just want to make sure, you can call in your own inspector to take a look at the apartment before you move in. If the landlord has nothing to hide, he or she should allow the inspection.
2. Test for Mold and Gas
Basement apartments should be tested for mold and gas as well. Inhaling mold in the long term can cause damage to your respiratory system and humid basements make ideal environments for mold to thrive. Radon is a harmful gas found frequently in basement areas and you can test for this gas yourself with a hometesting kit. Call in an inspector to test for mold and gas before you move in. If you’ve already moved in, you can still call an inspector and test for radon yourself. If the inspections find anything, you should move out as soon as possible.
3. Have an Escape Plan During Fire and Flooding
While basement apartments may be safer during tornadoes, they’re more dangerous during fires, flooding and hurricanes. You need to practice an escape beforehand so that you’ll know what to do during an emergency. Make sure you can squeeze through a window if necessary. If the apartment doesn’t have a window, make sure the stairwell is clear of debris at all times so you can make a quick exit. If there are no crawl-space size windows, however, you may want to reconsider the apartment; if the disaster is blocking the stairwell, you’ll need another method of escape.
4. Have a Plan to Prevent and Deal with Burglary
Basement apartments are often targets for burglary simply because it’s more difficult to see or hear an emergency occurring in a basement apartment than it is in an apartment above-ground, due to no or fewer windows and a sound barrier. If you live in the basement, then, you should take care to use automatic lights (set to go on and off at slightly different times each day) when you’re not home in order to give off the impression that you’re home.
If you’re home when a burglar enters, try to escape without notice; confronting the burglar can cause him to harm you. Practice an escape plan by seeing if you can exit out windows. If you can’t access an exit because of the burglar, barricade yourself in a bathroom or closet and call the police immediately.