Fire Safety for Renters

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Fire breaks out in an apartment building

Few things are worse than a fire breaking out in your rental or apartment building. You may be wondering how you could get out safely if one were to happen, especially if there are multiple floors. Even then, you’d probably be left wondering how you’d manage if your apartment and everything in it were to be engulfed in flames. These are all certainly valid concerns to have, and tackling them head-on is the only way to give yourself some measure of confidence and security in case the worst does eventually happen. And who knows? It might even end up saving your life.

Learn About the Building

Your property manager most likely has some protocols in place in the event of a fire. Any modern building will also be equipped with a smoke alarm system that is supposed to undergo periodic inspections, and most of these are set up to automatically dial the nearest fire department whenever smoke is detected. You can also ask the landlord about the building’s evacuation plan, because most, if not all buildings are required to have one.

On your end, you can make yourself feel more at ease by doing a walkthrough of the building and scoping out where each fire extinguisher case is. If you notice any smoke alarms or fire extinguisher cases that appear to be broken or faulty in some way, alert the landlord immediately.

Inspect Your Unit

You might see a fire extinguisher in your own apartment, as well. If so, you may want to check the date it was last inspected, as shown on the inspection tag. Given that a lot of fires are caused by rather mundane things like stovetops, defective appliances, and electrical issues occurring inside units, you’ll be ahead of the curve in making sure your fire extinguisher works and is within easy reach should you ever need to use it. Another thing to get sorted out is obtaining a comprehensive insurance policy that covers you as a renter in case of an emergency such as a fire. Most renters’ insurance provides some form of property loss coverage, but it never hurts to double-check and make sure that fire and/or smoke damage is included with yours.

You’ll be relieved to know that many of these insurance plans are designed to cover a tenant’s basic living expenses after being displaced due to a fire. Depending on your plan, it’s quite possible that your insurance company will also recoup the loss or damage of your personal possessions. Still, investing in a fireproof safe, in which important mementos and documents can be stored, is strongly recommended. Although having an understanding of these matters can deliver peace of mind, by doing a mental walkthrough of the steps you’d need to take in the event of an actual fire, you’ll be even more prepared.

Make a Plan

Put a basic, easy-to-follow plan in place, and then make sure it’s typed or written out and, if need be, prominently displayed so that your family or any other roommates sharing the unit can be made aware of it. Obviously, there are some situations where you’ll have to think quickly and make unexpected decisions. The bottom line is that your fire safety plan should be flexible, and it must take into account your individual rental. Get acquainted with its limitations, and with any unique or noteworthy features that could be of significance during a fire, i.e. a fire escape. You should also jot down where the all exits are in your apartment and in the building at-large.

In the Event of a Real Fire

The real fire might be a small one, in which case you should attempt to extinguish it if you can. If that’s just not possible, you’ll need to remove yourself from the area immediately and call 911. Make sure that you’ve got your keys in hand before attempting an escape from the building, as you may find that the fire has spread or blocked off an exit, which means you’ll have to turn back. If the fire originated from outside your apartment or you can’t get out, let the 911 operator know you’re still inside, making sure to tell them your precise location. Then just stay in the apartment and try not to panic as help arrives.

Check doorknobs — if they are hot to the touch, that means there’s a fire on the other side. Never try to escape via an elevator, either. Always use stairwells or the outside fire escape if you’re on one of the upper floors. If the smoke is thick, remember to stay low to the ground and keep moving. And although it’s easier said than done, try not to open your eyes or breathe in the smoke as you’re doing so.

To make it easier for the firefighters to come to the aid of you and your loved ones, pick up some rescue stickers. These stickers or cling-ons easily affix to windows and doors to alert firefighters of any children or pets that may be in need of rescue. If you have kids, you can get them involved by having them participate in a family fire drill. It’s good to revisit the fire safety plan with them, too, and run through a practice drill every so often just so everyone’s prepared for the real thing.

By taking some preemptive measures, you’ll be able to rest easy knowing you have a firm grasp on fire safety.

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