When it comes to fire safety, multifamily property managers should constantly be on the lookout for fire hazards. One small ember can quickly turn into a runaway blaze that spreads from unit to unit, potentially costing millions in property damage. Even more serious than that is the threat of bodily injury to building occupants, especially in assisted living and retirement communities. According to the National Fire Protection Association, there were 98,000 multifamily apartment fires in 2013 that cause about $1.6 billion in property damage and 325 fatalities. Protect the safety of your multifamily property and its occupants by reading tips to prevent the common cause of apartment fires.
1. Provide fire safety equipment in the kitchen.
Apartment fires are likely to start in the kitchen. In fact, over 80% of residential care and assisted living facility fires in 2013 were cooking fires. Make sure that kitchen appliances are properly installed and have adequate ventilation. Install smoke detectors in compliance with local ordinances, and provide a fire extinguisher for every kitchen.
2. Maintain heating and cooling systems.
Improperly maintained heating and cooling systems can overheat and cause an electrical fire. Hire a qualified HVAC technician to check cooling units, heaters and furnaces for proper installation. Replace worn HVAC parts and old units when they become outdated.
Bonus tip: Storing items too close to a heat source is a fire hazard. Advise your tenants that they should keep household items like clothing and furniture a safe distance away from any source of heat.
3. Prevent and detect gas leaks.
Natural gas leaks pose a significant fire hazard for multifamily properties. Have gas lines inspected for faults and do not allow any digging around the property without having gas lines marked by the local utility company. Install a gas leak detector in every building unit.
4. Inspect and upgrade electrical systems.
Buildings with poorly installed or deteriorated electrical systems are at risk of catching fire. Hire a certified electrician to inspect your building’s electrical components regularly. If you manage an older building, consider overhauling your electrical system completely. The cost to rewire and replace the electrical system is an investment in building and tenant safety.
5. Make sure waste is regularly disposed of.
Properly disposing of garbage and waste can minimize fire hazards. Trash can easily spark and go up in flames, and piled up garbage can block exit ways. Provide adequate garbage receptacles and have them emptied often.
Bonus tip: Require an annual unit inspection in lease agreements to ensure your tenants are maintaining a safe space and aren’t hoarding waste.