Apartment Complex Owners and Managers Must Provide Safe Apartments
PREVENTING APARTMENT FIRES
Each year, approximately 375,00 residential fires occur. These fires claim over 2,600 lives and injure another 13,000 people. The odds of being involved in an apartment fire are the same as in any residential setting; however, the likelihood for injury is much higher. If you have been burned in an apartment fire, call an apartment fire lawyer as soon as possible.
Instead of affecting one family, a fire in an apartment building can burn multiple tenants, and force many families out of their homes and damage their possessions.
HAZARDS INSIDE AN APARTMENT
Most apartment fires are caused by hazards inside the building. Lack of maintenance, improper use of or maintenance of smoke alarms, and kitchen appliances are just a few of the reasons why fires start. Consider the following techniques to address interior fire hazards:
Cooking—Cooking is a leading cause of fires. The majority of these fires happen when food is left unattended on the stove. Common ignitable materials are grease, oils and flammable items (e.g. paper products or plastic bags) near or on the stove. Building codes require stoves to be secured to a wall; many apartments do not meet this code, leaving stoves unstable.
Electrical—More than 25% of structure fires occur in apartments. Many of these are caused by some type of electrical problem. Check out these guidelines to help reduce the risk of electrical-related fires:
- Apartment complexes should hire only qualified electricians operating under the National Electric Code to conduct all electrical installation projects and wiring in the building.
- Often, there are no enough electrical outlets for tenant use. So, tenants are forced to use extension chords to power appliances and lamps.
- Additionally, space heaters should be placed no closer than 3 feet (or farther if recommended by the manufacturer) from any combustible material and they should never be plugged into extension cords.
- Adequate fire escapes: apartments should have adequate escape routes in case of fire. Windows should be in good repair and operable.
Heating and Ventilation Units—These should be serviced regularly to help prevent fires. Keep motors free of grease and dust, check furnace filters and change when necessary, and make sure fresh air returns and vents are kept clean and open to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
Laundry Rooms—Another common area for fire hazards, laundry rooms house lint and other combustible debris. These materials accumulate over time behind equipment and can ignite when heated. To avoid laundry room fires, take the following measures:
- Landlords must ensure dryer lint screens are clear.
- Install dryer vents that are continuous to the outside of the building.
- Clean dryer and washer motors as needed to eliminate grease and lint accumulation.
- Ensure gas vents for water heaters and dryers are maintained and are continuous to the outside of the building.
Smoke Detectors—Smokie alarms are required in apartments. Install smoke detectors in several locations, including inside every bedroom, outside every bedroom and on every hallway level of the building. Smoke alarms should be hardwired, to avoid any performance issues caused by dead batteries. Smoke detector batteries must be changed annually by the property manager. Do not assume that tenants will replace the batteries when the detector starts to beep. Many tenants will simply remove the battery, leaving them unprotected.
Fire Alarms—Many building codes require the installation of central station monitored alarm systems for fire, medical and police emergencies. Once installed, test the alarm at least twice per year and ensure all tenants are aware of when to use the alarm.
Sprinkler Systems—If a sprinkler system is installed, test it quarterly, as recommended by the National Fire Protection Association. Maintain an 18-inch clearance between stored items and sprinklers to ensure a proper water distribution.
Fire Extinguishers—Fire extinguishers can significantly reduce the damage caused by a fire. Fire extinguishers should be provided to each tenant.
APARTMENT FIRE PREVENTION OUTSIDE THE UNIT
Barbecue Grills—These are often regulated by city ordinances addressing their use in apartment buildings (both LP gas and charcoal). Apartment complexes must keep and maintain grills in good working order.
Fire extinguishers should be placed near grills in case of emergency
Trash Dumpsters—Place dumpsters away from buildings and roof overhangs. There should be at least 5 feet between the dumpster and anything that can burn (e.g., roofs, overhangs, carports, trees, etc.).
Decorative Foliage—Shrubs, bushes, trees and other types of decorative growth must be maintained to prevent overgrowth into emergency exit routes. In addition, shrubs next to the building should be well-watered and trimmed. Keeping shrubs healthy and away from the building makes them less likely to burn.
Fire Hydrants—Firefighters must be able to easily access fire hydrants in the event of an emergency. Hydrants should never be blocked by shrubbery, vehicles or snow. Damage to a hydrant must be reported immediately to the local fire department.
Apartment complex owners and managers have a duty to maintain safe apartments, and must provide a safe place to live. If you have been the victim of an apartment fire fill out the confidential inquiry form, call or text Flynn Law Firm today.