Building owners and managers have an obligation to keep their building and rental properties safe for tenants and visitors. Besides for the moral and legal obligation to maintain a safe environment, a safe and secure building attracts good tenants. The many codes and regulations that must be followed vary by city and municipality so make sure that your property complies with all the codes for your specific location.
In addition, keeping your property safe and secure will help reduce the potential for any future liabilities. Even once accident on your property can hurt your business and reputation. Having appropriate insurance coverage is crucial but so is doing your best to prevent any accidents.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Between 2010-2014, there were 107,800 apartment fires, causing 410 deaths, 4,280 injuries and $1.2 million in property damage. January is the top month for apartment fires and the top month for deaths caused by these fires and Apartment fires tend to happen in the evening hours between 3:00 -10:00 pm (45%). Specifically, apartment building owners need to be prepared in the event of the fire and to make sure appropriate fire safety features are in place in your building. Obviously, this also applies to all Commercial Real Estate Properties and Rental Homes.
Here is a basic checklist to help keep your building protected and prepared for a fire:
1. Install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors- every dwelling unit must be equipped with at least one approved smoke and carbon monoxide detector within 15 feet of every area used for sleeping purposes. There should also be smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the hallways of every building and near rooms with electrical equipment (ex. Laundry room).
2. Check smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors- Every 6 months all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be checked. Make sure all your tenants are aware of the necessity of testing and providing general maintenance for the alarms within their units and to notify management immediately of any issues.
3. Provide and Check Fire Extinguisher- Maintain portable fire extinguishers near every kitchen and in all hallways. Check that all fire extinguishers are in fully charge and operable condition and keep them in their designated places at all times when they are not being used. Check monthly that the pin is in place, the pressure gauge is in the correct position, the hose is properly attached and that there are no dents or leaks. Be aware that fire extinguishers do expire and should be replaced appropriately.
4. Keep hallways and egresses clear- Hallways should remain clear of items to help in a quick and safe evacuation. Make sure that all fire escapes remain totally clear and accessible at all time. Eliminate storage of any materials in the common hallways, stair, and along egress routes in each building. Such storage is a potential obstruction during an emergency and should be strictly forbidden. Not only does such storage inhibit rapid egress, it increases the likelihood that fire may start in or spread to these key escape routes.
5. Emergency Lighting and Sprinklers- Install appropriate emergency lighting and sprinkler systems. Include lighting and systems sprinklers on monthly documented inspections to assure that they are operable in case of an emergency.
6. Keep combustible items away- make sure that there are no combustible materials near heat sources such as water heaters, radiators or boilers. Dispose of all these materials appropriately and safely.
7. Create and enforce a “No Smoking Policy”- Smoking should only be done in designated areas and cigarette butts and lighters should be properly disposed of.
8. Create and post a Fire Escape Plan- Clearly marked escape plans with all exits highlighted should be distributed and posted in public spaces.
Preparing and making sure that your building is prepared and protected in the event of a fire is extremely crucial. Make sure to keep on updating and reevaluating your fire safety procedures. There are many resources available to help you keep your building safe and secure. Keep Safe!
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