According to the Ministry of Labour, the risk of fire is one of the greatest threats to health and safety, property and the delivery of essential services. Statistics from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation reveal that annually, fires in residential units account for 70-80 per cent of Canadian fire deaths and 60-70 per cent of fire injuries.
When it comes to fire safety, it is the responsibility of all residents to know how to protect themselves, their families and their fellow apartment building dwellers. When a fire occurs in your suite, it may be instinct to panic. However, if you take precautions and practice fire safety routines you can deal with the situation with relative aplomb.
Circuit Training: Let’s begin with your electrical outlets. With the amount of electronics we have these days – laptop, iPod, iPad, and cellphone – it’s easy to overload your circuits. Ensure to invest in a well-made power bar that you can use to plug in your various electronics. Many power bars come with a surge-guard, which is particularly helpful during a power outage due to a storm.
Sudden jolts in electrical currents can not only potentially ruin your electronics, but cause fires. Surge guards help to prevent these jolts from becoming catastrophic. Tip: When you’re purchasing something like this, talk to a sales associate. Better yet, hold onto the receipt and run the product by your landlord. If it’s not the right product, exchange it.
Careful Cooking: In rental apartments, fires caused by cooking are quite common. It is critical to always keep an eye on your stove when you are preparing a meal. As well, it’s good practice to clean your stovetop and oven regularly to prevent buildup of food particles that can become burnt and act like charcoal to a potential fire.
Here are some additional cooking tips:
• Try to avoid self-cleaning ovens. These ovens become extremely hot in order to “burn off” any pieces of junk left behind. As you can imagine, this poses a potential fire hazard.
• If you do have a fire from cooking, avoid pouring water on it – this will only make it worse as a stove is an electrical appliance.
• For grease fires, keep baking soda on hand to douse the flames.
• If particles of food beneath the stove element catch fire, put on an oven mitt and slowly cover the flames with a cookie sheet.
• If the fire is within the oven itself, avoid opening the door as oxygen will make the flames bigger.
Make sure you always have a small, functional fire extinguisher in your kitchen and ensure that all members of your household know how to use it.
Auto Pilot: Purchase appliances, including hair straighteners, irons and crockpots, that have an auto-shut off feature built in. This way, if you forget to turn off the coffee maker before you leave the house it will turn itself off before overheating.
If you use space heaters, which most residents living in rental apartments do, follow the instructions carefully. Give the space heater plenty of room when it is running so the heat has a place to escape. Do not cover it with clothing and never leave it on a carpeted floor.
Bright Idea: Another essential thing to remember is to never leave burning candles unattended. They may seem safe, but one small spark and a fire could be easily started. If you smoke, do not smoke in bed. Always use a deep ashtray and never smoke while tired. Preferably, go outside to smoke and ensure your cigarette butts are properly disposed of.
Know Your Out: Every rental apartment building has a fire escape plan on each floor. Take time to look over this plan and practice it. You may want to organize a floor-wide or building-wide trial run of evacuation procedures. It is a good idea to do this at least once per year. Try to designate someone who will help those who are disabled or elderly to evacuate the building. It is also very important to remember that you should never use the elevator during a fire – always take the stairs!
The Ontario Fire Marshal offers this procedure to follow in the event of a fire in your building:
1. Before opening your unit door, use the back of your hand and touch the top of the door and around the door handle. If it feels hot or warm, do not open the door. An indication of heat means there could be a fire behind the door.
2. If the door is cool to the touch, brace your foot and shoulder against the door and open it slightly.
3. If you see smoke, do not enter the hallway, you must stay in your unit. Follow the procedures indicated below when your path is blocked by smoke.
4. If the hallway is clear of smoke, exit your unit and close the door behind you.
5. Never use the elevators during a fire. Go to the nearest exit stairwell. Using the same procedures as mentioned above, check the door for heat before you open it slightly.
6. If you see smoke, do not go this way. You must use another exit. Close the door tightly and go to the second exit stairwell. Most buildings have an exit stairwell at both ends of the hall. Before you open the door, again check for heat and check the stairwell for smoke.
7. If the stairwell is clear of smoke, enter it and close the door tightly behind you.
8. Go down the stairs and exit the building.
Play Detective: Find out whether your apartment is equipped with working smoke alarms and, if applicable, carbon monoxide detectors. The general rule of thumb is to test your smoke alarm every six months. The landlord will also ensure that the fire alarms in the building are working. When testing is done, notices will be sent out so you will be prepared. Try to organize your evacuation procedure trial run during the fire alarm testing!
Keep yourself and your apartment building safe by practicing all of the fire safety tips above. Look out for each other and strengthen your community!
– The RentSeeker.ca Team