With the stunning views and an array of amenities at your fingertips, living in a high-rise can be an exciting experience, but it's also important to keep fire safety top-of-mind. Fortunately, there are steps associations can take and things that can be done to help ensure protection from potential danger. 

What are the five rules of fire safety for high-rise buildings? 

As a board member of your urban high-rise association, you are responsible for ensuring all residents are safe and secure. Here are some important steps you can take to help protect against potential fire hazards in your community. 

  1. Create a fire safety emergency plan 

    Help ensure the safety and security of your community by creating a comprehensive fire preparedness plan. Work with your management company to develop strategies for effective communication channels, such as newsletters, websites, or emails, so that residents can have access to the plan in case of an emergency. Additionally, regularly incorporate this topic into board meetings to emphasize preventive measures that residents can take. Finally, verify whether there is a reliable alert system set up that could notify everyone immediately of any potential danger. 

  1. Maintain and test your fire safety equipment 

    Don’t wait for your mandatory fire inspection to see if your equipment is functioning properly. Instead, make sure your community is always prepared for a fire emergency by regularly inspecting and testing critical safety equipment, such as sprinklers, communication systems, and backup lighting. 

  1. Conduct training for staff and residents 

    Arrange to have your property management company or local fire department provide fire safety and prevention training to your on-site staff and residents. Fire drills help keep evacuation procedures top-of-mind. Instruct residents and staff not to ignore alarms and to follow evacuation protocols and other directives as if there was a real fire. 

  1. Keep public areas clear 

    Time is of the essence in a fire emergency, so it's critical to keep pathways clear. Residents' safety during a fire emergency depends on firefighters having clear access and quick escape routes. Do your part to keep hallways, stairwells, walkways, and driveways obstacle-free. Additionally, make sure rules prohibiting items in public areas or parking vehicles in fire lanes are rigorously followed. 

  1. Consider installing a sprinkler system if your building doesn’t have one 

    Protect your property and pocketbook with a sprinkler system. According to the National Fire Protection Association, installing a sprinkler system is an invaluable means of reducing damage caused by house fires – but it can also bring its own financial rewards in terms of insurance credits and tax deductions
    Jamie George, from FirstService Financial, explains that “many buildings receive around 20% off their premiums for having these systems installed, while other associated costs may be eligible for certain tax reductions too”. 

What can residents do?  

Marc Glassman, director of facilities and maintenance at FirstService Residential, says that residents play a big part in fire prevention and safety. “If you’re a high-rise or condo building resident, you need to be knowledgeable and proactive about fire safety – that means following your association’s rules and emergency preparedness plan, as well as doing your part to keep your unit and building fire safe,” he says. “It’s also critical that you and your family are well prepared to ensure everyone’s safety before, during, and after a fire.” 
You can protect yourself, your family, and your community by following these high-rise fire safety tips from the NFPA and FirstService Residential: 

  1. Take precautions at home 

    Kitchen fires are one of the leading causes of residential blazes, so take extra precautions by not leaving food unattended on your stove and unplugging any nearby appliances. Remember to blow out candles when you leave the room or before bedtime, as well as monitor children's activities around open flames and electronics. If smoking is permitted in your building’s vicinity, be sure all materials have been extinguished entirely prior to discarding them. 
    According to the NFPA, you should have smoke detectors inside each bedroom, outside every sleeping area, and on every level of the home, including the basement. Also, be sure to change the batteries in your smoke detectors twice a year. Keep the area around your exits accessible by not leaving large items like strollers or bikes in the way. If you have pets, keep leashes or crates near the doorway for easier evacuation, and be sure your pets have tags or are microchipped. 

  1. Familiarize yourself with your building 

    Get to know the building’s layout, as well as the location of fire alarms, stairwells, and exits. You’ll need to know where all the stairwells on your floor are in case the nearest one is blocked. Select a location away from the building where your entire household can safely meet and wait for everyone to reunite there. 

  2. Know your building’s fire safety plan and systems 

    Conduct and participate in fire drills and get to know your evacuation plan. If there is no plan, create one or offer to head up a fire prevention committee to spearhead the effort. Feel free to have a local fire department assist. Also, ask about your building’s fire safety systems, such as fire alarms and sprinklers.  

There’s much to enjoy about living in a high-rise, and being savvy about fire safety can provide peace of mind. For more information on how FirstService Residential can support your community in case of an emergency, reach out to one of our team members. 
The NFPA or U.S. Fire Administration website can also provide additional guidelines for fire safety in buildings. 

Disclaimer: This article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Consult with your association attorney.    
Wednesday March 27, 2024