As winter approaches, owners of multifamily properties must turn their attention to fire safety. The colder months bring unique challenges and increased risks of fire hazards. A proactive fire prevention strategy can help safeguard your property and your residents’ safety and well-being.
Here is a guide to help you address common winter fire risks.
Schedule a comprehensive inspection of the HVAC systems in your multifamily property. Make sure that all furnaces, boilers, and space heaters are in good working condition. Schedule periodic filter replacements and promptly address any resident complaints to prevent malfunctions. Regularly check and clean vents to ensure proper ventilation for heating systems.
If you allow residents to have space heaters, establish clear guidelines for their safe use. Remind residents to keep their heaters at a safe distance from combustible materials. To avoid this risk, you may want to consider installing space heaters with automatic shutoff features.
If your property has chimneys, hire a professional chimney sweep to clean and inspect chimneys. Check for creosote buildup, a common cause of chimney fires, and educate residents on proper fireplace usage and the importance of regular maintenance.
Address any issues with ventilation promptly to avoid fire hazards.
Schedule a comprehensive audit to identify potential hazards, ensuring that wiring is up to code and capable of handling increased demand during the colder months. Address any overloaded circuits, frayed wiring, or malfunctioning outlets to mitigate the risk of electrical fires.
If power outages are common in your area, provide guidelines on the safe use of portable generators. Emphasize proper placement to avoid carbon monoxide buildup and fire hazards, and encourage residents to use generators with built-in safety features.
Remind residents about safe cooking practices, especially during the holiday season. Distribute safety tips and encourage the responsible use of kitchen appliances. Ask them never to leave cooking appliances unattended and to keep flammable materials, such as kitchen towels and oven mitts, away from hot surfaces.
Install fire extinguishers in common areas and ensure they are easily accessible.
Christmas trees and other holiday décor can pose significant fire hazards. Here are some tips to share with your residents.
Draft and share guidelines on selecting and caring for live Christmas trees. Educate residents on the risks of dried-out trees and the importance of proper watering.
Almost a third of Christmas tree fires are caused by electrical problems, according to the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA). Remind residents that all lights should be listed by a qualified testing laboratory; they should read the label to determine whether the lights are designed for indoor use and to learn how many strands can be connected. All residents should avoid strings of lights with worn or broken cords and turn lights off before leaving home or going to bed.
Residents should keep trees at least three feet away from heat sources, including fireplaces, radiators, heat vents, lights, and candles. Speaking of candles, consider restricting their use and requiring flameless alternatives. Christmas is the peak day for candle fires, and 11% of candle fires occur in December and January, according to the NFPA.
Ask residents to check to make sure that all fire alarms, smoke detectors, and carbon monoxide detectors are in proper working order.
Conduct regular fire safety training sessions for residents. Confirm that each resident receives a copy of emergency evacuation procedures and set a policy that residents must report any fire hazards or concerns.
Taking these proactive steps will protect your multifamily property from winter fire risks and demonstrate your commitment to the safety and well-being of your residents. By fostering a culture of fire safety, you can create a secure, comfortable living environment for everyone in your multifamily community.