Apartment Safety Tips

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Unique hazards increase danger for people who live in apartments. 

Take time to review your home inside and out to ensure you know what to do in the event of an emergency. If there are areas of concern, correct them as soon as possible.

Because families in apartment complexes communities live so close together, there are special areas of concern when it
comes to fire safety. An apartment building is, in effect, a very densely populated neighborhood. If the downstairs or next
door apartment is on fire, it can spread quickly to adjoining apartments in a matter of minutes.
Apartment Safety
(c) 2008

General Home Safety

  • Often, there is only one way in or out---no back door.  If you are on an upper floor, look into getting a rescue ladder for at least one of the bedrooms. Have a fire escape plan. Practice it. Know at least two ways to get out of your apartment. Pick a family meeting place outside the apartment building. Do not use elevators in the event of a fire.
  • Stairways are often built entirely of wood. If the stairwell or walkway is on fire, you may not be able to exit through the front door.
  • Working smoke alarms save lives! Check your smoke alarm regularly to ensure it is working properly. Replace the batteries as needed and replace the smoke alarm at least every 10 years. Check with the apartment management to see what the policy is on checking and servicing smoke alarms in the complex. 
  • Get acquainted with the elderly folks in your building or community. They may need assistance in an emergency. They may have extra difficulty getting out. You may be able to help them, or you can direct firefighters to the elderly person’s apartment.
  • If you can’t get out, use a mobile phone to stay in touch with 9-1-1 dispatchers. Shine a flashlight or wave a sheet out the window to alert firefighters that you’re trapped.

Tips for living safely in apartment complexes:

  • The apartment complex is required to have a fire extinguisher within 75-feet travel distance. If extinguishers are not provided outside the apartments, then each apartment is required to have one.
  • The Fire Code states that no person shall use fixed or portable barbecues in or under any attached covered patios, balconies; covered walkways or roof overhangs unless it has a fire sprinkler. When in use, barbecues should be located on ground level and be a minimum of 10-feet from buildings, structures, covered walkways or roof overhangs. 
  • Congested parking can mean blocked fire hydrants and/or blocked fire lanes. (A ladder truck can be 8 to 9-feet wide and 50-feet long. A blocked fire lane can slow down response time.) Ensure you are parking in designated parking areas and report violators to a park manager.
  • Don’t park in front of fire hydrants and don’t park in fire lanes. 
  • Respecting the fire restrictions may literally save your life. When friends visit, be sure to remind them to park only in appropriate parking areas.
  • Never leave smoking materials burning. Never smoke in bed. Dispose of smoking materials properly to ensure they do not pose a fire danger later.
  • Make sure your apartment is clearly identified from the outside with your unit letter or number. If there isn't, contact management, it's required by the Fire Code. Keep a copy of your apartment number and apartment building number, inside your apartment, near the phone. The information will then be handy for babysitters or guests, and it will be there if you panic.
  • Complex owners and managers need to be sure gated driveways are accessible to firefighters.
  • Ensure all electrical devices are property plugged in. Reduce the use of extension cords to lessen the changes of an electrical failure and possible fire. They can easily overheat. Extension cords are for temporary use only. They are not to be used as a substitute for permanent wiring.
  • Apartment complexes are simply a series of small, connected homes. It’s important to remember that what you do in your apartment can affect people living six-doors down, or even in the next building.
  • Finally, swimming pools pose a separate hazard for people who live in apartment complexes. Pools must be fenced, and the gates must close and latch on their own. If children use the pool, an adult must always be inside the gate, in the pool area, constantly watching the children.

(Information provided in part courtesy of the City of Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department© 2013)