Don't Get Burned: Fire Safety


Colder temps are here, which means people are staying inside, firing up fireplaces, turning on space heaters, and cooking more. This means the risk of fire may increase on your properties. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA):

  • Portable or fixed space heaters, including wood stoves, were involved in one-third (32%) of home heating fires and four out of five (79%) home heating deaths.
  • Cooking has been the leading cause of reported home fires and home fire injuries.
  • Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in reported home fires in half.
As a property manager, it’s important to educate residents and tenants, and your own employees, on the importance of preventing fires and what to do in case of fire. Here are some important reminders about fire safety on your properties:

Fire Safety Equipment and Procedures

Work with local fire department to schedule regular fire safety equipment checks. Be sure to know and follow all local fire safety codes and procedures, including:

  • Check that all detectors on your properties, both in public areas and in units, are in working order. Traditionally, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are checked in the spring and fall when we turn the clocks backward and forward one hour. This year, Daylight Savings Time ends on Sunday, November 4, 2013.
  • Inspect and maintain all fire sprinkler systems and fire extinguishers.
  • Ensure that fire response and evacuation procedures are in place, posted, and all residents and tenants know them.

Portable Space Heaters

Implement policies regarding the use of space heaters in units, offices, and cubicles. Many property management companies prohibit the use of space heaters in office buildings, commercial spaces, and student housing, to name a few property types. If space heater use is allowed on your properties, be sure residents and tenants follow these guidelines for safe use:

  • Only use heaters that have been tested to the latest safety standards and have been certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory.
  • Place them on a solid, level, non-flammable surface, away from high-traffic areas, doorways, furniture, bedding, drapes, and other flammable materials.
  • Keep heaters in well-ventilated areas, three feet away from any combustibles.
  • Turn them off when you go to bed or leave a room.
  • Use and purchase heaters with an automatic shut off.
  • Plug power cords directly into outlets; never use an extension cord.
  • Inspect regularly for any damage.

More Information

Check out these resources for more information about fire safety and prevention:

Before and After Disaster Strikes, Developing an Emergency Procedures Manual, Fourth Edition.
© 2012 Institute of Real Estate Management. Chicago, IL. Available through the IREM bookstore at www.irem.org.

Fire Safety Systems and Emergency Incident Prevention on www.irem.org

National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) at www.nfpa.org, which has a key safety information and safety tip sheets available for download