We’ve all had the panic-stricken moment of wondering if we left the oven on and if our home is alright, but in an HOA or condo, the risk is much higher. A lot of people in one area, and especially if you manage a high rise condo, means that if someone did leave a fire hazard on without supervision many people may suffer. Between 2009-2013 U.S fire departments responded to an average of 14,500 structure fires per year in a high-rise building (7 stories of higher). These fires resulted in an average annual 40 civilian deaths, 520 injuries, and $154 million in property damage, per year! FEMA found that the leading cause of these fires is cooking at an astounding 74 percent.
The board of directors has a responsibility to its residents to reduce all fire risks as much as possible, and to ensure their residents are prepared if an emergency does arise. So what should you be focusing on to be a ensure proper HOA and Condominium safety?
The single best thing that you can do to reduce risks of fires is to get the buildings in your condo or HOA checked at least once a year. Each local government has their own regulations on how often they require fire inspections. It depends on your buildings’ features, under some State laws buildings with fire escapes have to be checked at different times than buildings without, check them out to make sure you’re complying with them. The good thing about the inspection is that it should be completely free, as local fire departments are meant to do it without charging you a dime.
Make sure you have a life-safety system. This includes all equipment to detect and put out a fire. Often having smoke detectors and sprinklers is obligatory under condo associations rules, but not always. While the installation of the system may be pricey the potentially life-threatening risk of not having it is much higher. Always go above and beyond to ensure your residents’ safety. The law on smoke detectors varies from State to State, but all units should have smoke detectors in the kitchen and outside all bedrooms. Don’t shirk on Carbon Monoxide alarms either, you should have one of those on each floor. Check out the best ones here. In indoor public areas each room should have a smoke detector, but it depends on the size of the area, and more may be required. Make sure the fire safety equipment is checked regularly and the batteries in the smoke detectors and CO alarms are changed once or twice a year.
Some items are extreme fire hazards that your HOA or condo should consider banning to reduce the risk of accidental fires in your HOA or condo. You should talk to the fire marshal about what sort of things could fall into this category. A few simple rules would be not allowing grills on balconies, especially in multi-occupied buildings. Also, portable fires often use alcohol gel and have been known to cause both fires and false alarms. A good rule of thumb is that anything with a flame larger than a candle shouldn’t be used on a balcony.
An annual fire drill is essential to make sure that all residents know your HOA or condo’s fire procedures. You could tie the drill into one or more fire safety events or days. These could include how to put out different types of fires, when and how to sound the alarm and evacuate the building or unit. Be sure that residents know who to call in the event of a fire, the evacuation procedure, and where they have to go. Another good training session for managers, board members, and residents is how to treat basic burns. Everyone is more or less familiar with these things but a refresher is always extremely helpful so that people feel confident in what to do in these situations, and remain calm if one ever occurs.
Use Vinteum Neigbrs’s social media platform to regularly remind your residents of what to do in case of a fire. You could post videos about how to treat burns or pictures of the fire assembly point(s) for your HOA or condo. You can use our documents feature to upload the condo or HOA’s fire regulations, or your newsletter where you can remind residents of fire prevention tips on a regular basis. One excellent tip is to make sure their dryers are free of lint because they are the biggest source of home fires. Cleaning out a dryer vent eliminates this risk almost completely and it’s something that your residents may forget to do. You can add the annual fire drill to our online calendar so everyone knows when it is. On Vinteum Neigbrs you can send your residents a text or smart call telling them when you’ll be testing the fire alarms.
These are just five simple steps that your HOA or condo can take to make sure that it’s a low-risk zone for fires. Contacting your local fire department is the simplest way to guarantee that your HOA is well protected against fires and that everyone in your condo or HOA is well trained and prepared if a fire ever was to break out. Make fire safety your first priority in 2019!