When it comes to safety, it’s 20% knowledge of best practices and the rest is the application. We are passionate about offering businesses and individuals the best in security products and services. It’s our priority. And we are just as passionate about informing and equipping you, so you can make security your priority, too.
Safety and Security Risks
If you are a property owner or property manager, there are many safety and security risks you have to address. Some people deal with more hazards than others. It is truly a serious matter, and there are so many steps you can take to protect your property and the people within it.
Because of its structure and a higher number of people involved, multi-tenant housing has a higher risk of death and injury from fires than single family homes. This doesn’t mean we should shut down these properties. Apartment dwellers need not run for the hills. If applied, there are steps to address these risks, and we want to share them with you. Many of our recommendations can and should be applied to any building, no matter its size or purpose.
The steps can be broken down into 4 categories: Prevention, Early Detection, Containment, and Efficient Response.
If you can prevent a fire from starting in the first place, that is, of course, the best possible scenario. You can prevent fires through the following:
- Fire Risk Assessments – This is something a property manager can do. However, a safety professional could also be utilized. An assessment should identify the fire hazards, identify the people at risk, and evaluate ways to remove or reduce those risks and hazards. You should also document your findings and prepare an emergency plan that you’ll use to instruct tenants. (Some of our following recommendations can be included in an emergency plan.) This kind of assessment should be done regularly. At Sonitrol, we offer a variety of assessments. You can request one by calling 1-888-SONITROL.
- Regular Equipment Check – Check your equipment for breaches in fire resistance, combustibles in staircase enclosures, blockades to fire service access, and operation of dry risers.
The sooner you are aware of a fire, the better. This may sound like common sense, but so many people do not invest in good systems for fire detection. You cannot rely on your senses alone for noticing the start of a fire. Within 30 seconds, a small flame can become completely out of control at which point it’s considered a major fire.*
- Detectors – Every multi-tenant building needs an efficient detection system specific to the building’s structure and layout. Some of these systems detect changes in temperature, some are triggered by smoke.
- Fire Alarms – Because the buildings we’re discussing today host multiple people, they must be clearly notified of the threat of fire. If you’re needing a good fire alarm system, feel free to view Sonitrol’s systems here.
There have been amazing advancements in materials for our buildings and the features within them. If you have any say in the construction or renovation of your multi-tenant building, we recommend you have every one of these elements. In some areas, they may be required by law.
- Protected staircase – This is a staircase made of fire-resisting construction. This should be the designated area the tenants know to use for exiting a building during a fire.
- Fire-resistant structures – The floors, walls, and glazing should achieve at least a half hour of resistance to fire. Doors should have smoke seals and be self-closing. Most walls you buy off the shelf will offer 30-minutes of resistance to fire. The finish on the ceiling and floors can increase fire resistance. Also, using tongue and groove softwood at least 15mm thick for floors will also improve their fire resistance.
- Chutes and ducts – Use fire-stopping technology in your chutes and ducts. There are more options than ever before in fire-stop design. Many contractors offer firestop installation as a service.
- Layout of the building and rooms – If you have a say in the creation of the floor plan, tenants should not have to pass the kitchen in order to reach the exit. Since the kitchen has many appliances, especially the oven and stove, it is one of the most common places for the start of a fire. Therefore, the fire could spread to the entry/exit door quickly if it is in direct proximity to it, ultimately ensuring harm to a tenant.
- Installing sprinkler systems – A good sprinkler system can detect, warn, control, contain and even extinguish a fire. If you haven’t looked at our fire systems, you should do so now. A fire authority will also need to inspect any system like this.
- Policies – Evacuation procedures should be made clear to all tenants. It is recommended in high and low rise buildings with separate flats to implement a “stay put” policy; meaning all tenants are asked to stay put except for the flat that is affected by fire. However, in other types of buildings, such as a house converted into individual flats, the best policy is for all people within the building to evacuate at once when notified of a fire. These policies are determined by the building structure and the risks involved. Clearly, all tenants should understand the policies of their housing so that they respond to a fire in the safest way possible. A designated escape route should also be laid out. Property managers or owners should consult with a fire authority to create these policies.
- Emergency lighting – Emergency lighting may be required in common areas or circulation areas to help with the evacuation.
- Fire fighting equipment – Some buildings will require firefighting equipment under fire safety legislation. It’s also recommended to have fire fighting equipment for a tenant’s individual use in their occupied space. For example, fire extinguishers and fire blankets. Make sure that the fire extinguishers are properly maintained as well.
We hope these recommendations are helpful. If it could save even one life, it’s worth our time and worth yours, too. If you have more questions about managing fire safety while also managing people, check out our blog about fire hazards in a workplace. You can also reach out to our consultants at any time to learn more about how Sonitrol can help you.