11 Lifesaving Apartment Fire Safety Tips

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: March 26, 2024

When an apartment building goes up in flames, tenants go into evacuation mode, often on different floors.

Families and neighbors head for safe exits. It’s a situation that can quickly become confusing and dangerous.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, more than 105,000 residential fires occur in multi-unit properties every year. As Chicago’s leading fire damage professionals, we see it too often.

We want you to stay safe, so we’re sharing valuable information about apartment fires.

Read on to learn why these fires break out and how to protect your personal safety. We’ve also included ideas for upgrading your building’s fire prevention strategies.

What Are the Most Common Causes of Apartment Fires?

apartment kichen fire damage

Unfortunately, human error is behind most apartment fires. Fortunately, most of these fires are easy to avoid. Stay aware of the following problems that cause fires in apartment buildings.

1. Kitchen Dangers

It only takes a few seconds for splattered grease to start a kitchen fire. Unattended ovens, stovetops and countertop cooking appliances are all potential fire hazards.

2. Portable Heaters

Portable heater fires are often caused by worn components and frayed power cords. The heating elements in these devices generate an intense heat that can ignite flammable materials.

3. Electrical Systems

Without routine maintenance, electrical systems in apartment buildings develop dangerous problems. Bad wiring, damaged circuit boxes and faulty wall outlets can spark electrical fires.

4. Large Appliances

When their components fail, clothes dryers, washing machines and dishwashers can start apartment fires. Old appliance motors, heating elements and power cords are usually to blame.

5. Flames

Candles add lovely accents to dinners and holidays. They’re also responsible for an average of 7,000 residential fires annually. Aside from candle fires, additional open flame hazards include unit fireplaces, patio fire pits, lighters and matches.

6. Cigarette Smoking

Many multi-unit properties prohibit smoking, but cigarettes are still a common source of fires in apartment buildings. Even outside, improper disposal of a lit cigarette can start a fire.

11 Important Apartment Fire Safety Tips

We’ve organized these lifesaving tips into two categories: first, tips that keep you safe in case of a fire in your apartment; and second, fire safety tips that can be implemented property-wide.

Personal Fire Safety Tips

personal fire safety tips

1. Plan Your Evacuation

Draw up an evacuation plan. Figure out the shortest route between you and the nearest fire exit. Determine a second way out of the building, in case your first route becomes blocked.

Sketch a map of both plans. Count the doorways between your apartment and the two nearest exits. Over the next several days, pay attention to both evacuation routes. This makes it easier to remember them in case of an emergency.

2. Check Smoke Detectors

Each hallway and bedroom in the apartment should have a smoke alarm. Check them once a month by pushing the test button. If the alarm doesn’t work properly, replace it right away.

Change out the batteries once a year. Look for an expiration date on the back of the unit. After 10 years of service, it may not perform properly. Don’t take chances. Replace the old smoke detector.

3. Get to Know Your Fire Extinguisher

Store a kitchen fire extinguisher in an easy-to-reach spot. An ABC class extinguisher is the best choice for most apartment residents. If you’re not sure how to use it, watch an instructional video online.

Keep an eye on the extinguisher’s pressure gauge. If its needle moves out of the green safety zone, have the extinguisher serviced by a certified fire extinguisher professional.

You can also take it to your local fire department.

4. Practice Safe Cooking

Stay safe when you’re cooking by staying in the kitchen. If you have to leave the room, take a timer with you, and set it for no more than five minutes. Make this a house rule that applies to everyone in the apartment.

Safe cooking includes keeping counter towels and oven mitts away from hot ovens and stovetop burners. Loose clothing can be a fire hazard too.

5. Be Careful With Space Heaters

Check all space heaters before cold weather sets in. Look for damaged power cords and frayed connections. Make sure heating elements are securely in place.

Keep units out of the way of foot traffic and at least 3 feet away from flammable materials. Always turn space heaters off when leaving a room and before going to sleep.

6. Inspect Power Cords

If it plugs into the wall, inspect its power cord. Lamps, countertop appliances, television sets and desktop computers can become potential fire hazards. Routinely check for worn cords and damaged plug prongs.

Be careful with extension cords and power strips too. Follow all manufacturers’ recommendations for safe use. Don’t run any type of power cord under rugs or through doorways.

7. Look at Your Windows

If a fire blocks your door or the hallways, a window can serve as a backup exit. Many high-rise buildings feature exterior fire escape stairways adjacent to unit windows.

Check your apartment’s windows. Make sure each one opens and closes easily. If you notice any problems with the windows or your fire escape stairs, contact building management.

Apartment Building Fire Safety Tips

8. Keep Exits Clear and Closed

Fire exit entryways should always be kept clear. These areas should never be used for storage by residents or building maintenance. This applies to stairwells and stairways too. Nothing should be in the way of an emergency evacuation.

Exit doors should never be locked. However, they should always stay closed. This helps reduce the risk of a flashover accelerating the spread of a fire through the property.

9. Locate Pull Stations

When fire breaks out in one of an apartment’s common areas, sprinkler systems and smoke detectors should start working immediately. However, it’s still important to activate the manual alarms in pull stations.

Help keep your building safe by knowing where pull stations are located in hallways, stairways and laundry rooms.

10. Report What You See

If you see a problem that could turn into a fire hazard, let management know. It’s their responsibility to maintain building safety. Most apartment managers appreciate tenant input.

If a situation isn’t corrected in a timely manner, talk to management again. Make it clear that all residents expect them to keep fire equipment operating properly and up to code.

11. Share Fire Safety Strategies

Maintaining fire safety in an apartment building works best when it involves the whole community. Talk to your neighbors, and arrange for a meeting with management.

Use the time to discuss building-specific safety strategies. For example, management could post evacuation maps in hallways and include fire safety handouts in new tenant materials.

Responsible property managers are willing to work with tenants to ensure building safety.

Dealing With an Apartment Fire in Chicago, IL? We Can Help!

professional fire damage restoration

When a fire spreads through a multi-unit property, the results can be devastating. We hope our fire safety tips help you better protect your home and your building.

If the worst does happen, you can count on ServiceMaster by Zaba. Our teams take care of apartment fire damage for residents in Logan Square, Magnificent Mile and the suburbs too, including Glenview, Skokie, Northbrook, Evanston and more.

Our teams are here for you with an emergency response 24/7. When you need Chicago’s best fire damage restoration services, we’re just around the corner, ready for your call: 773-647-1985