Living in a high-rise condo has its set of perks. Residents get to enjoy a wide range of amenities, stunning views of the city, and the convenient location. Vertical living, however, also has its challenges.
Fire safety is one of them. According to statistics from the U.S. Fire Administration, 1,319,500 fires broke out in 2017. Some 364,300 of them were home/residential fires. When it came to high-rise building fires, a 2016 National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) report found that fire departments in the country responded to around 14,500 reported incidents per year. These fires caused an average of 520 civilian injuries, 40 fatalities, and $154 million in property damage per year.
The good news is that there are measures that property managers and residents can follow to improve fire safety.
Steps for Property Managers to Improve Fire Safety
If you serve as part of building management, it’s important to take efforts to prevent a fire from breaking out and destroying the property and lives. Here are some steps you can take to keep everyone safe:
Make a Fire Safety Plan Specific to the Building
This type of plan identifies the actions the occupants and the building management should take in the event of a fire or a similar situation. It should cover the types of fire safety systems, different ways to evacuate the building, construction type, and fire safety tips. When creating this plan, make sure you:
- Provide each unit owner with a copy
- Give new residents a copy when they sign their lease
- Post this document in the common area
- Hand out an updated or fresh copy of the plan every year
Conduct Fire Safety Training and Drills for Residents and Staff
Ask the local fire department to provide this type of training to residents and onsite staff. Regular fire drills and safety training teaches building occupants what to do before, during, and after a fire. During a fire drill, make sure to instruct occupants to participate in the activity and follow evacuation procedures.
Keep Public Areas Free from Clutter
Every second is crucial in a fire emergency. Getting rid of obstructions in stairways and hallways allows residents to escape quickly and enables firefighters to access your building more easily. You can keep these pathways clear by strictly enforcing policies that forbid residents from leaving trash and other obstacles in common areas.
Install a Sprinkler System (if the Condo Doesn’t Have One)
A sprinkler system is an expense but crucial investment that helps save lives and property. According to a report by the NFPA, the fatality rate per 1,000 reported fires was 87 percent lower in buildings with sprinkler systems than in properties that did not have sprinklers or any automatic extinguishing system (AES). On top of that, these devices were effective in controlling 96 percent of the fires in the area where they operated.
Check if the Window Security Gates Have the Fire Department’s Seal of Approval
Sometimes, the windows on the lower stories of the building have security bars or gates to deter intruders and other unauthorized individuals from entering the premises. While these products provide added security, they may also trap residents during a fire and hinder rescue efforts made by firefighters.
If the building has mounted security bars on the windows, make sure it bears a stamp or label indicating the approval of the fire department. These gates do not require the use of a tool, key, or any special effort to open.
Action Steps for Residents
If you’re a resident of a high-rise condominium, you need to be proactive and knowledgeable about fire safety. This means following the rules and emergency preparedness plan of your condo association, as well as keeping your unit safe. You can protect you and your family by taking note of these fire safety suggestions:
Be Familiar with the Fire Exits of the Building
Condominiums have a sufficient number of emergency exits to allow occupants to evacuate from the burning building quickly and safely. You can find the exact location of these exits by checking the floor map displayed on each floor. Study the map carefully, determine the proximity of your unit to the nearest exit, and figure out how you will navigate the path in the event of a fire. If you find any obstructions that may hinder the safe passage of residents, such as non-working light bulbs in stairwells and clutter blocking the exit, let the building managers know as soon as possible.
Equip Your Unit with a Fire Extinguisher
This active fire protection device, when used properly, is an effective early response to a developing fire. Make sure you have at least one of these in your unit, preferably in the kitchen. You should be able to access it easily and quickly.
When using a fire extinguisher, remember P-A-S-S, a carefully organized acronym that stands for:
- Pull the pin, which stops the device from discharging accidentally. Note: Doing this will break the tamper seal.
- Aim the hose, horn, or nozzle directly at the fire
- Squeeze the handle carefully to release the fire-suppressing agents inside the extinguisher
- Sweep the hose, horn, or nozzle from side to side until you successfully put out the flames
Watch the area carefully. If you see fire reigniting, repeat the last three steps.
Install Smoke Alarms in Your Unit
The latest edition of the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code requires residents to install smoke alarms outside every sleeping area and inside every bedroom. Installing these devices correctly helps you evacuate the premises early before the fire traps you inside your unit.
Residents who don’t find fire alarms in public areas of the condo should raise this matter to the building management. The property managers will take care of installing these devices.
The installation of fire alarms, however, is only half the job. These devices need to undergo routine maintenance to stay in good condition. Property managers who need assistance in maintaining their alarm systems can turn to TED Systems. We offer reliable ongoing maintenance for fire alarms in Kansas City. Our seasoned team of technicians service alarm systems and make sure that the equipment continues to work properly and efficiently for many years.
Contact us today for more information.