Friday, November 18

Fire Prevention and Safety Tips for Condominium Residents

These days, people planning to buy a home find that land areas have become more expensive and difficult to come by. Thus, the construction of condominium buildings continues to rise instead as demand increases for these kinds of dwellings.

If you live in one of those high-rise structures, make sure you are aware of fire prevention and safety measures. Here are various tips, shared by firefighters during fire safety seminars, which could save your life.

photo credit: San Diego Home Loans
Planning ahead

1. Choose a unit with a door near a fire sprinkler and don’t buy a condo higher than the 15th floor. Evacuation would be more difficult in case of emergency as firemen’s ladders can only reach a certain height.
2. Have your building or unit inspected by a fire safety inspector and follow his recommendations. Post important numbers (fire, police, hospital, etc.) near your phone.
3. Invest in fire-fighting equipment especially a portable fire extinguisher. Beware that using water can be dangerous in certain situations. Most residential buildings only purchase extinguishers rated for Class A fires (caused by common combustibles like paper and wood). To be safer, buy your own and go for one with a combination rating for ABC fires. Class B is for fires caused by grease, oil, and other chemically treated materials while Class C is for electrical fires.
4. Keep smoke detectors in good condition. Test them monthly and change batteries twice a year.
5. Remove fire hazards including those that block exits. Store Christmas lights immediately after the season ends; be careful about throwing cigarette butts anywhere within the building; report piled up trash obstructing stairs and doors to the building manager.
6. Study your floor’s location map; be familiar with the floor’s layout, all stair exits, and fire alarm boxes. Count the number of doors between your unit and the nearest exit in case you have to find it in the dark.

photo credit:
7. Check emergency lights in the hallways. One should point towards the hallway and another should face the stairs. Heavily populated buildings must have 12V units because they last four to six hours longer than 6V units.
8. Plan and practice a fire drill exit with your family and assign a meeting place outside the building.
9. Keep your front door key accessible. You should be able to find it easily in case you need to exit your unit during emergencies. Take it with you in case of fire as you may need it to re-enter your unit and wait for rescuers if the exits become blocked.
10. Always be mindful of other basic fire safety procedures. Be careful in the kitchen, never leave your cooking unattended, check electric wires for fraying, etc.

Surviving a fire

In the unfortunate event that your building catches fire:

 Call the fire department and give them details on what’s happening as the premature use of a fire hose can create unnecessary water damage when false alarms happen. For instance, a fire alarm may sound but there is no smoke anywhere.
 Stay in your unit if all possible exits are blocked and cover all smoke passages with damp cloths. Turn off your air conditioner because it will suck smoke from outside. Call the fire department to give your exact location or wave a bright cloth outside your window. If your unit is near the ground and has grills on the windows, try getting out using the hole in the wall where your air conditioning unit is.

photo credit: FirstService Residential
 Crawl under smoke when evacuating, as you’ll find more air to breathe there. Bring a flashlight and use the stairs, not the elevator because power might suddenly go out. While on the stairs, avoid causing counter flow that may lead to accidents. Don’t go back for your cell phone or jewelry if they fall while you’re moving. Just make your way outside as soon as possible.
 Go up the building and wait for rescue if the fire is located on a lower floor and there’s no way to go down. Bring a wet towel to cover your face and a wet blanket for your body. Wear shoes instead of rubber or plastic footwear as they can melt from the heat.
 Keep calm. Wait for help. If you made it outside, do not re-enter the building until firemen declare it safe.

You have a responsibility not only to keep your condo unit, but also your building, fire-safe. Being aware of the things you need to do can mean life and death for yourself and your neighbors.

(Note: this article was originally published in Zipmatch on January 2014) 
© Ruth Manimtim-Floresca

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