According to Tom Olshanski, spokesman for the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), "fires are burning hotter and faster" because of the high level of plastics in buildings. The poisons and gases emitted during fires are extremely deadly. Olshanski notes that every year over 4,000 people lose their lives and over 25,000 people are injured in apartment fires.
Fires in apartment buildings aren't necessarily something you cause, often times you need to contend with safety hazards caused by your neighbors.
So how can you be sure you're safe in your apartment building?
Olshanski recommends the following:
1. Make sure your smoke detector is working.
Over half the people who are injured in fires will lose their lives because they aren't protected by working smoke alarms. Olshanski points out, "Having a working smoke alarm is like having a firefighter in your home." And if your smoke alarm is over 10 years old, replace it. And make sure you test your smoke alarm periodically.
2. Talk to your landlord or building manager.
Ask your building manager about fire safety features in your building (fire alarms, sprinklers, voice communication procedures and how to respond to an alarm).
3. Know the locations of fire extinguishers.
Apartments buildings are often required to have fire extinguishers near each apartment unit; either in the unit itself or in the hallway. "Each and every jurisdiction has different requirements. A check with local a fire department can quickly answer any questions about the (fire extinguisher) regulations in their area," Olshanski explains.
4. Learn your building evacuation plan.
Take some time and talk to your family about your fire evacuation plan. Discuss what measures need to be taken if a fire were to break out at 2 in the morning? Be prepared, plan, and practice your evacuation plan with your family and neighbors.
5. Consider a building's overall layout.
Know of at least two ways to get out of your apartment building and have a predetermined meeting place for your family, safely away from your building.
6. Do occasional building inspections.
For example, check the storage facilities in your building. Make sure fellow residents are not storing gas near the furnace or have cardboard boxes stacked near the furnace. You can also request that the local fire department come out and inspect your building.
Cheryl is aware that if she had followed basic fire safety tips, her home as well as the homes of her neighbors would not have been lost in a fire. In the end, Olshanski notes that fire prevention comes down to following general safety tips and by paying attention to these tips, you can keep you, your belongings and your apartment safe from a devastating fire.