Fire Prevention Tips for Property Managers of Apartment Buildings
May 26, 2021
As a property manager, you have a legal and ethical responsibility to promote tenant safety. One of the biggest risks in any residential setting is a fire. Residential building fires can result in serious injury or lost life, not to mention hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.
Following simple fire safety tips allows property management companies to reduce the risk of fire and minimize fire damage. It's critical to take preemptive action before a disaster happens. With a few measures, you promote your tenants' safety and preserve your property. If you're looking to minimize and control fire risks, follow the 10 helpful fire prevention tips below.
Importance of Fire Safety
Fire safety should be a rental housing manager's priority for several reasons. For one, taking action to prevent fires and educate tenants on fire safety can save lives. It can also protect you from devastating financial loss and legal liability. When rental management companies neglect fire safety or do the bare minimum to avoid liability, fires are more likely to occur and cause more severe impacts. When you do your part to promote fire safety, both you and your residents enjoy long-term benefits.
Common Causes of Fires in Apartment Buildings
Across the United States, many fires have similar causes. Between 2010 and 2019, the vast majority of residential building fires were cooking-related
. In 2019 alone, over 178,000 cooking-related fires took place. The next most common cause was related to buildings' heating systems — approximately 33,100 heating fires occurred in 2019. About 27,200 fires were the result of unintentional carelessness, and 24,000 were due to electrical malfunctions. Taking these common causes into consideration helps identify methods for fire prevention and protection.
Prevent Apartment Building Fires With These Tips
You can reduce the odds of a fire by taking preventive action. Follow these 10 fire safety tips for property managers. Using these strategies, you can limit the risk of fire — you can also protect life and preserve property in the event of a fire.
1. Promote Electrical Safety
It's essential to make sure your electrical systems adhere to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) guidelines and local fire codes. Always hire a qualified electrician for any necessary electrical work. This measure will help minimize the risk of electrical malfunctions, which are the fourth highest cause of residential building fires.
Electrical distribution and lighting system fires have caused about $1.4 billion in direct property damage
each year from 2014 to 2018. To prevent damaging electrical fires, schedule regular inspections and preventive maintenance.
Here are a few other things you can do to avoid electrical-related fires:
- Pay attention to the life spans of your electrical systems and replace them when needed.
- Verify your electrician is qualified — only hire professional electricians.
- Avoid doing work yourself to minimize mistakes.
- Teach tenants to notice signs of trouble, such as a power cord feeling hot to the touch, lights flickering, burn marks around a socket and electric shocks when plugging something in.
2. Maintain Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Systems
Heating systems are the second highest cause of residential fires, resulting in hundreds of fatalities each year. Fixed or portable space heaters
cause the vast majority of heating equipment fires, according to the NFPA. You may want to consider replacing fixed space heaters with an alternative solution and banning portable space heaters.
Another major cause of residential heating fires is the failure to clean and maintain heating equipment. As a property manager, it's your responsibility to schedule yearly cleanings and inspections for your heating equipment. Regardless of the type of heating system your building uses, keep up with maintenance and inspections to ensure fire safety. Here are some other measures to take to avoid heating system fires:
- Remind tenants to keep flammable objects at least 3 feet from heating equipment.
- Use sturdy diffusion screens if you have fireplaces to contain sparks.
- Schedule regular water heater inspections and replace older water heaters.
- Replace any old or broken HVAC parts.
3. Ban Indoor Smoking
Set strict rules about smoking and be sure to enforce those rules. Outline an indoor smoking ban in your lease terms and post signs to remind your tenants. Encourage tenants to report suspicious smells. These measures will reduce fire risks — it'll also promote resident health, as secondhand smoke is a major health hazard.
Residents who do not smoke, especially those who are pregnant or have children, will appreciate an indoor smoking ban. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), secondhand smoke
can cause stroke, middle ear infection, respiratory problems, lung cancer and reproductive dangers. You might provide an outdoor bench or gazebo where lessees can smoke safely.
4. Ban Candles, Provide Flashlights and Lanterns
Unattended candles are another significant fire hazard. Consider banning candles in your lease terms, along with indoor smoking. Suggest alternatives for creating pleasant smells, such as aroma sprays or plants. Keep in mind, tenants often use candles during power outages to produce light. To avoid this, you could provide your residents with flashlights and lanterns to use during potential power outages.
5. Remember Dryer Lint
Offering your residents a place to do laundry is a major time-saver and convenience. But it can also increase your building's fire safety risks. Dryer lint is highly flammable. Remind tenants to always clean out their dryer lint after drying their clothes. Provide lint-only trashcans in laundry spaces and label them as such. It's a good idea to place signs in your laundry room reminding tenants to clean out their lint. You may want to check your dryers once every other day or so to make sure they're lint-free.
You should also hire a professional to clean out your laundry room ducts at least once a year. Dryers can only catch so much lint — the rest accumulates in the ducts, which can become a major fire risk over time. Add cleaning laundry room ducts to your annual fire safety checklist.
6. Remind Tenants About Cooking Safety
Remember, the number one cause of residential fires is cooking accidents. While it's impossible to look over every tenant's shoulder as they cook, you can provide kitchen safety training. Your residents may not be aware of all possible kitchen fire hazards. You might provide new residents with a safety training session and offer reference materials. Here are some essential notes
to remind your tenants of:
- Always keep a close eye on cooking food, whether in the oven, on the stovetop or on the grill — remain in the room when one of these appliances is on.
- Keep cooking areas clean and clutter-free, removing packaging, towels and miscellaneous objects.
- Keep young children and pets away from cooking areas, using baby gates or playpens if needed.
- Turn pot handles inward to minimize the risk of bumping them by accident.
- Always wear short, tight or rolled-up sleeves when cooking, and tie up long hair.
- Keep oven mitts, potholders and pot lids handy at all times.
Also, remind residents how to handle grease fires, oven fires and microwave fires, each of which requires a unique response. Provide the following information:
- Dealing with a grease fire: Pouring water or using a fire extinguisher on a grease fire can cause the flames to spread. Instead, you should smother the flames with the pan lid and turn off the heat. Remember, only remove the lid when it has cooled.
- Dealing with an oven fire: If a fire occurs in the oven, you should turn off the heat right away and keep the door closed. As soon as possible, call the fire department. If a tenant experiences an oven fire, you'll have to service the oven before they can use it again or possibly replace it.
- Dealing with a microwave fire: Microwaves produce a great deal of heat and can be a major fire hazard. To avoid microwave fires, remove food lids or coverings before cooking and never put metal in the microwave. If a microwave fire occurs, keep the door closed, unplug it and then call the fire department. Service the microwave before the tenant uses it again or replace it if necessary.
7. Schedule Walk-Through Inspections
You may want to consider implementing semi-regular inspections. If you do, include inspections in your lease terms and inform lessees in advance when they'll take place. You might schedule bi-annual inspections and conduct additional inspections after a fire hazard report. Create a checklist of things to inspect. Look for:
- Ashtrays indoors
- Banned items, such as candles or space heaters
- Items too close to heat sources
- Obstructed smoke detectors
- Clutter near the stovetop
- Overloaded electrical sockets
- Two or more extension cords connected together
Determine and outline a plan for your inspections. You might give warnings for initial violations and evict tenants for repeat violations. Scheduling regular fire safety inspections will help keep all of your tenants safe and reduce the risk of a fire.
8. Be Cautious With Landscaping and Trash Disposal
While many fire safety hazards fall under tenant responsibility, some require your attention as a property manager. Be cautious with landscaping and trash disposal, as both can become hazardous. Here are some tips for proper landscaping and trash removal.
The foliage surrounding your apartment buildings or other rental properties can present a fire risk. Make sure your shrubbery is healthy and not dry, as dry shrubbery is prone to ignition, and trim tree branches away from chimneys. Remove any dead vegetation, dead wood and weeds.
It's also a good idea to choose fire-resistant native plant species. Some examples of fire-resistant plants include carpet bugleweed, rock cress, yellow ice plant, wild strawberry, creeping thyme and garden carnations. Those and other fire-resistant plants:
- Have high moisture content
- Tend not to accumulate dry, dead material
- Contain water-like sap
- Contain low levels of sap or resin
When landscaping, keep flammable materials and plants away from your property. If you have a lot of flammable shrubbery beside your residential property, for instance, you might consider replacing it with a fire-resistant alternative.
Trash Disposal Tips
Garbage collection areas can also pose a hazard. One of the most important fire safety tips for rental property owners is proper trash disposal. Place dumpsters and other trash collection areas at a safe distance from residential spaces. If you offer doorstep trash removal services, always keep up with collection to avoid trash buildups. Provide residents recycling services as well as garbage collection. Remind your tenants what materials require special disposal, including:
- Flammable liquids, such as gasoline or oil
- Ammonia, bleach, paint thinners and similar chemicals
- Compressed gas containers
- Ashes from a fireplace, grill or other sources
- Rechargeable batteries
9. Educate Residents on the Evacuation Plan
Even if you follow all fire prevention tips for apartment buildings, a property fire can still happen. To minimize injuries and fatalities, make sure every tenant is familiar with fire protection measures. Your plan might involve steps like these:
- Create clear evacuation procedures based on your building's size, layout and features.
- Conduct fire drills and safety training events on a regular basis.
- Consider inviting local firefighters to provide information and offer safety tips.
- Create pamphlets, diagrams, posters and other materials for reference, which you can post around the building or on tenants' doors.
10. Invest in Comprehensive Fire Protection Services
For total confidence, invest in comprehensive fire protection services. Professional equipment installations, preventive maintenance, repair services and inspections will offer you peace of mind. Having faulty smoke detectors, alarm systems and other fire safety equipment can be disastrous. Rely on experts to make your property as fire-ready as possible at all times.
About Our Fire Protection Services
Consider Certified Fire and Security for fire protection services
. We offer everything you need to prevent, detect and respond to fires. With our services, you can reduce the risk of fire and minimize fire destruction. We'll design and install a complete fire protection system for your apartment buildings. We also provide preventive maintenance, monitoring, repair and inspection.
Certified Fire and Security is your one-stop shop for all things fire safety. We install and maintain each of the following:
- Smoke detectors
- Alarm systems
- Fire extinguishers
- Fire suppression systems
- Fire sprinkler systems
- Emergency sprinkler systems
- Fire doors
Contact Certified Fire and Security Today
Of all your priorities, fire prevention and management should be at the top of the list. With the 10 tips above and fire protection services, you can help keep your tenants and your property safe.
If you want to make your building as safe as possible for lessees, invest in comprehensive fire protection services. With Certified Fire and Security, you can be sure your fire detection, alert and mitigation systems are ready if needed. If you're interested in learning more about our services, contact us with any questions