Off-Campus Apartment Fire Safety

Items to Consider When Choosing an Apartment Building:

  • Choose fire-safe housing that includes automatic sprinklers and a monitored fire alarm system.
  • Smoke detectors and alarms should be provided on every level and in each sleeping area
  • Carbon monoxide detectors and alarms should be provided when fuel burning equipment or appliances (gas stoves, gas furnaces, fireplaces, integral parking garages, etc.) are provided.
  • The smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors should be tested monthly, and batteries replaced twice a year.
  • There should be at least two exits from the apartment and at least two exits leading to the exterior of the building.
  • If fire escape ladders are provided, confirm with the building owner that they are in working order. 
  • All exit doors along the path of travel to the building’s exterior should open outward and do not require a key or other means to exit.
  • Emergency lighting should be provided in the hallways along all exit paths and tested monthly. If some of the emergency lighting is not functioning, contact the building owner for maintenance.
  • Fire extinguishers should be provided in every hallway, spaced no more than 75 ft. apart and one provided near each kitchen.
  • The fire extinguishers should be checked monthly and a vendor performed annual inspection with an up to date service tag attached.
  • All gas, electric, kitchen and heating appliances should be confirmed to be in good working condition. A qualified professional should inspect the gas, electric, kitchen and heating appliances at least every year.
  • Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlets should be provided within 6 ft. of water sources such as kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms.
  • Confirm the building has been inspected by the local fire department, or other City designated inspection agencies.

Fire Prevention and Safety Checklist:

  • Do not leave candles, incense or cooking unattended.
  • “Keep an eye on what you fry.” The stove and/or oven should be kept clean of grease and spilt food. In the event of a fire while cooking, it is recommended to cover the flames with a metal lid (or a baking sheet).
  • Keep stairwells clear of obstructions. Occasionally walk your exit route(s) and report any obstructions to the building owner.
  • Refuse should not be allowed to accumulate inside the apartments, hallways and directly against the outside walls and entrance/exit doors.
  • Do not prop open stairwell doors or other fire doors. These doors are components of the passive fire protection system.
  • Do not tamper with/disable smoke detectors. According to NFPA, between 2012-2016 “Almost three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no smoke alarms that were working
  • Do not hang items from sprinkler heads or fire extinguishers. These are components of the active fire protection system.
  • All extension cords and power strips must be tested and approved by Underwriters Laboratories (UL). UL testing makes sure that wire sizes are correct, devices can handle the amount of current listed.
  • Only low wattage electronic devices (computers, televisions, stereo, game consoles, etc.) should be plugged into a power strip. 
  • The power strips should be plugged directly into a wall outlet without an extension cord or multiple power strips connected together.
  • If a space heater must be used, then it should have an overtemperature and tip-over shutdown safety devices, be plugged directly into wall outlet and all combustible material must be at kept at least 3 ft. away.
  • Properly dispose of smoking materials. According to NFPA, between 2012-2016 “5% of the reported home structure fires started by smoking materials.”

If You Discover Smoke or Fire:

  • If you discover or suspect a fire, pull the building alarm (if provided). By code, alarm pull stations are located within 5 feet from a building or stairway exit door.
  • Go to the nearest exit or exit stairway. If the nearest exit is blocked by smoke or fire, go to another exit.
  • It is of key importance to know two ways out from every room.
  • When safely outside the building, call 911, providing the building’s address, as much information as possible and follow any instructions given. Do not re-enter the building until the “all clear” signal is given by first responders.
  • Before opening any door, feel the door with the back of your hand. If it is hot, do not open the door! If it is cool, open it slightly.
  • Close as many doors and windows as possible as you leave. However, do not put yourself in danger to do so.
  • This helps to confine a fire and limit the spread of smoke to other areas of the building.
  • If smoke is present, get down and crawl. Cleaner, cooler air will be near the floor.

If heat, fire and/or heavy smoke are present, preventing you from leaving, close the door, stay in your room and take the following actions: 

  1. Call 911 and inform the operator of your address and your location in the apartment. 
  2. Place a garment or other material (wetted down if water is available) along the bottom of the door to seal the opening and help protect it from smoke entering the room.
  3. If materials are present, a sign attracting attention to your location should be placed in a window.  
  4. If there are no outside signs of smoke or fire, the window can be partially opened to allow waving or hanging of a larger item (sheet, coat, etc.) to signal first responders.

Using a Fire Extinguisher:

Before using an extinguisher:

  1. Make sure the alarm has been sounded (if provided).
  2. Make sure the extinguisher you plan to use will be adequate for the type of fire.
  3. If you go into a space containing smoke and/or fire, keep your exit at your back! Smoke and fire can make it extremely difficult to identify an exit door.
  4. When extinguishing a minor fire remember the P.A.S.S. technique:

P ull the pin. Pull the pin all the way out from the extinguisher.

A im the extinguisher at the base of the fire where it is closest to you.

S queeze the handle to activate the extinguisher.

S weep the nozzle from side to side and front to back, at the base of the fire.

If the fire cannot put out with one fire extinguisher, leave the building immediately.