There were 405 deaths and 3,025 injuries due to fires in apartment buildings in 2015 (NFPA Statistics). If a fire breaks out in your apartment building, think before you freak—learn what to do, how to protect yourself, and how to care for those around you.
Recognize apartment fire hazards & prepare for them
Does your apartment have an incredible gas-range stove for your culinary hobby? Or maybe a rustic, cozy wood-burning fireplace that illuminates the pages of your latest mystery thriller? These are awesome apartment amenities, but they’re also huge fire risks. Make sure you’re up to speed on recognizing and reducing these fire dangers. Same goes for preventative action: Smoke detectors with old batteries aren’t just annoying to hear—that “beep” is there for a reason. Change the batteries, stat!
Check out FEMA’s fire safety checklist for renters to gain an understanding of all the ways you can improve your apartment safety. Preventive fire measures include burning candles safely, keeping open flames away from children, turning pot handles inward while cooking, and never leaving the kitchen unattended when cooking or baking.
Create a fire plan with your family
Before the unthinkable occurs, do what you can to prepare with your family and fellow roommates.
- Count the number of doors between your apartment and the fire exit in case you have to find it in the dark.
- Ask the superintendent if there is an established fire escape plan for your building. If not, ask that one be created for your individual apartment building.
- Practice your escape route with children. Keep them engaged by having them draw one out.
- Have flashlights handy in case of power loss and know where you keep your apartment key for quick access.
If a fire starts…don’t freak
Raise the alarm and get low
Apartment fires happen. If one starts in your building, do your best to keep calm. You might hear the alarms. If you see or smell smoke, call 911 and tell the operator where you are in the building. Pull a fire alarm on the wall if it isn’t sounding already. Then stay low to the ground, even if you don’t see smoke.
Decide if you should stay or go
Don’t immediately flee, especially in a high-rise building. Staircases could be too dangerous, especially if you don’t know where the fire is. Elevators could stall, ceilings could collapse. Staying in your apartment and signaling from the window may be the best way of letting first responders know where you are.
Staying? Keep the smoke out
If you stay in your apartment, stop smoke from coming in. Place wet towels or sheets under the door and cover vents and air ducts. Signal first responders from your window with a flashlight or white cloth.
Leaving? Choose your exit wisely
If you need to leave your apartment, avoid using the elevators, breaking windows, or going to the roof. Smoke rises and this could put you in greater danger. If possible, bring your apartment key with you. You don’t want to lose access to your apartment.
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