High-Rise Building Fire Safety Tips
“If you’re a resident of a high-rise or condo building, you need to be knowledgeable and proactive about fire safety – that means following your condo association’s rules and doing your part to keep your unit and building fire-safe,” said Gary Bodner, vice president for FirstService Residential. “It’s also critical that you and your family are well-prepared in case fire ever does break out, to ensure your safety before, during and afterwards.”
Preparing for a fire isn’t the kind of thing anyone enjoys, but it’s essential. To help with the process, we’ve put together tips for fire safety and prevention from experts at the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the nation’s leading information and knowledge resource on fire, electrical and related hazards.
Fire prevention begins at home. That means supervising children and pets around flames and electricity – especially during the holidays, when twinkling lights and candles are often part of the décor. Make sure that pets are tagged, collared and microchipped as appropriate, with a leash or crate stowed near the door in case you need to evacuate.
1. Make your home fire-safe.
Never leave cooking pans or pots unattended – and the same goes for candles, which should be safely extinguished when you leave the room. Inside your unit, you must have functioning smoke alarms outside all bedrooms and living rooms. Test them frequently and change their batteries twice a year when you change your clocks. Don’t overload electrical outlets; use surge protectors rather than outlet expanders. If possible, unplug electrical cords when not in use. Make sure your exits are free from obstructions, including bicycles, strollers and other large objects, at all times.
If you live in a building that permits smoking, pay attention to where community members dispose of cigarette butts. Designated receptacles and areas for cigarette butt disposal are necessary to avoid risk of fire from potentially flammable debris.
Whether you are a long-time resident or just moved in, it’s important to be familiar with your building’s layout and interiors. Know where all building fire alarms, exits and stairwells are located – including the stairwell closest to your unit, as well as all other stairwells on your floor in case that one is blocked. Choose a meeting place safely away from your building, and make sure every member of the family knows to wait there until everyone is reunited in an emergency.
2. Know the lay of the land.
Set up a meeting with your property manager or managing agent to learn all about your building’s fire prevention systems. If possible, do that while moving in or completing a community orientation. It’s never too early to be informed. Ask about fire alarms and sprinkler systems, and find out if the building utilizes any kind of voice communication system to immediately notify residents in case of fire, such as FirstService Residential’s ResidentAlert system.
3. Get to know your management staff.
Be sure to let your community association manager know if anyone in your unit has mobility or other health issues that would require assistance to leave so that the fire department can be advised.
If the fire alarm sounds or an announcement is made that there is a fire in a building, listen carefully and follow directions. If you are told to leave, you must act quickly. First, feel the door. If it’s cool, leave immediately and close all of the doors behind you to prevent fire from spreading to your unit. Gather your children, family members and pets and head to the nearest stairwell – never the elevator (more on that in a moment). On your way out, pull the fire alarm to notify your neighbors and local fire department.
4. Fire! Stay or evacuate?
Once you’re outside, go directly to your pre-determined meeting place and call 911 – they’ll need to know the building’s address, your location and other pertinent information about the building and its residents.
If the fire is in your unit – no matter what type of building you live in – get everyone out and head for the nearest safe exit, staying low to the floor as much as you can. Take your keys, if readily available, and close all doors inside the unit as you leave, including the front door – but do not lock it.
If you are instructed to leave your apartment, you must act quickly. Stay calm, listen carefully to any audio instructions and pay attention to where the fire is to avoid smoke inhalation as you exit. As instructed above, first, feel the door and the doorknob. If they are not hot, open the door a little bit and check the hallway for fire, heat or smoke. If it’s clear, prepare to leave quickly, shutting all doors behind you and closing the front door as you exit to prevent fire from spreading to your unit. Gather your family members and pets and leave the building via the nearest stairwell – never the elevator (more on that in a moment). Proceed cautiously, keeping children and pets close at all times.
5. When you need to get out quickly.
Once you’re outside, go directly to your pre-determined meeting place and call 911 – the operator will need to know the building’s address, your location and other pertinent information about the building and its residents.
If you feel the door and it’s hot to your touch, do not open it – the fire is nearby. If fire, smoke or health issues prevent you from leaving, keep calm and move quickly to stuff wet towels or sheets under the door and vents – that will prevent smoke from entering your unit. Call 911 and let them know exactly where you are, then wait until help arrives. According to the NFPA, if your windows open, you can try opening the window slightly to wave a colorful cloth – that will quickly alert rescuers of your location. But be prepared to shut the window immediately if the airflow makes smoke conditions worse. Consider checking your balcony as a safe place to wait for help as well.
6. When you cannot leave.
Never use the elevators during a fire, unless you are directed by the fire department to do so – and make sure your children know that rule as well. Why? There are several reasons: the elevators may be needed by the fire department to quickly move firefighters and equipment to and from the fire or a nearby floor. Only a few people can fit inside an elevator at once, so it’s an inefficient way to evacuate a large number of residents at the same time. On a more ominous note, you may get stuck inside an elevator if the power is lost or cut, and elevator shafts can fill with smoke quickly. A fire can even short circuit the call button, causing the elevator to open its doors at the floor where the fire is located. So always play it safe – take the stairs.
7. Do not use the elevators.
High-rise condo living offers unique benefits and a rewarding lifestyle – and safety is a big part of that. Keep your family and community safe by following these fire prevention tips, and for more fire safety information and guidelines, visit the NFPA’s website.
To learn more about how a professional property management company can help your building prepare for any emergency or natural disaster, contact FirstService Residential, Florida’s leading property management company.