Fire Season Tips
“Ask Kari” is a monthly, Question & Answer feature from Kari Negri. Kari has two decades of property managemen experience, is a featured speaker at many industry trade shows, such as AAGLA’s annual trade show, and is the founde and CEO of SKY Properties, Inc. in Los Angeles.
As fire season approaches, we wanted to share a few tips on some areas you might want to review when conducting you smoke alarm/CO2 checks at your buildings. Spending a few extra moments investing time in seeking out potential fir hazards could, most importantly, save a life, but also avoid tensions during inspections, code enforcement, etc. Here ar a few areas to consider:
- Fire Escape Plan
We used to practice fire escape plans in school, has the practice ceased in our homes? Talk with your residents about fire escape and having a plan within their units. You might even reach out to your local fire department to involve a firefighter to come give a discussion at your building. Just as with the police, who have community assigned Senior Lead Officers
who will come to your building and talk about crime prevention and safety tips, firefighters are equally involved in the community.
- Water Heater Closets
Of course we’ve all been told not to store anything in a water heater closet, but it’s always a great idea to check them out during an inspection. We’ve heard instances of discovering wrapping paper piled up near water heaters, paint thinner, and other flammable chemicals. A water heater has a flame (pilot light) at its base. If something near it is flammable (pet hair, paper, chemical vapors), it will ignite. Look for peeling, flaking paint on the wall heater cover. Sand, prep, and repaint if necessary.
- Stove, Oven, and Cooking
Wrapping stove/oven drip pans in foil can cause an excessive buildup of charred food and drippings. This material can catch fire. Do not store pots and pans in the oven. Some handle compositions can pose a danger when exposed to pilot light heat in an enclosed space. Know that these first two stove and oven items are two of the many things code enforcement will flag as a violation. When grilling, frying or broiling, be certain to remain in the kitchen. If you need to leave your kitchen area, even for a very short period, turn off the stove first.
- Power Strips
Look for overloaded power strips or strips that have plugs not fully plugged in. If the wattage drawn from a specific circuit in the circuit panel exceeds its maximum capacity, it will trip, and could prove unsafe. Consider watts = volts x amps. A clever way to remember this equation is West Virginia. Watts = Volts x Amps. If you have a 15-amp circuit at 110 volts, it can handle up to 1,650 watts. Take note of the circuits for each area of a unit to understand wattage capacity.
You always want to look for signs of hoarding: unkempt, massive storage of items in an enclosed environment that can prove fire hazardous. Fire departments are experiencing serious fires and injuries as a result of hoarding -- the excessive accumulation of tenant belongings in apartment units. These cluttered, unsafe conditions pose a threat not only to the resident, but also to their neighbors. According to recent studies, up to 5% of the population are compulsive hoarders. Hoarding can be a huge fire hazard. Blocked doors and windows can prevent escape in a fire or other emergency situation. Common types of materials hoarded include highly flammable paper, boxes, and clothing. Firefighters can also be put at risk due to obstructed exits and raging fires that can lead to roof collapse. Hoarding makes fighting fires and searching for occupants a lot more difficult. There are many resources (some free) for compulsive hoarders. http://hoardingcleanup.com/california has free links to therapy, clean up companies and on going hoarder support.
- Laundry Room
At most apartment buildings, the laundry room is both a great convenience and sought after amenity. We must keep in mind however, that fires may occur if clothes dryers are not properly installed and maintained. More than 80% of dryer fires took place in residential buildings. Every year, fire departments respond to approximately 60 clothes dryer fires in apartment buildings. These fires resulted in many injuries and about $35 million in property loss. A clothes dryer works by forcing hot air through a spinning drum. Moving hot air then dries wet clothes placed in the drum. During this process, lint comes off the clothing. While much of the lint is trapped in the filter, lint also ends up in the vent line. Lint is a highly flammable material that can accumulate behind your laundry machines. In addition to the accumulation of lint, blockage in the dryer’s exhaust line can occur from pet hair, cobwebs and even birds or rodent nests! A clogged-up vent will not exhaust properly, and as a result, overheating may occur, which could lead to a fire.
- Smoke Alarm
Test your smoke alarms, and change out batteries if necessary. Make sure all units have properly working CO2 alarms. Educate your residents to not pull a smoke alarm down due to the battery beeping. Rather, encourage them to let the manager know so a new battery can be installed. The same goes for the backup battery for a CO2 detector. Finally, remember that smoke alarms can no longer be located near a ceiling fan.
As always, please remember, I am not an attorney. Seek clarification through your attorney. All articles are simply an opinion. Stay in touch at www.GetSky.net