Apartment Fire Safety Checklist

Jul 07, 2017

Apartment Fire Safety Checklist

Do the “math” for a second.

A residential fire breaks out in your building, meaning, many people will need to evacuate simultaneously.

And there are just a handful of ways to get out.

It’s this reason it can take several minutes to evacuate and escape to safety, or worse, many people often get trapped in their apartment during a fire if they can’t get out fast enough.

We don’t need a calculator to crunch the numbers and see why a fire breaking out in your building is such a dangerous survival scenario. 

And you already know it’s one of the most likely survival situations you could face, which is why I believe it’s so important to be prepared for.

But I’ve also got some good news. 

You can take just a few basic steps to substantially decrease the likelihood of a fire breaking out in your apartment and, if one does, how to make it out of a fire alive. 

And that’s exactly what I will lay out for you here.

In this post, I provide a quick checklist of 10 things to review in your apartment to reduce the chances a fire starts in your apartment and that you can safely escape if one does start – and it takes just a few minutes to review the list.

Let’s get started.


#1: Do you have at least one operable smoke alarm?

A smoke alarm is often the first notification mechanism a fire has broken out in your building.

To ensure you’re notified as quickly as possible, you should have a smoke detector installed high on the walls or ceilings inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and in any additional living or family rooms.


#2: Are your electrical cords in good condition?

We all have tons of electrical cords these days.

Whether it’s the cords powering your TV, Blu-ray, and PlayStation tangled up behind your media center, or your cell phone charger hanging down from your nightstand, damaged electrical cords are dangerous and a real threat to start a fire.

In fact, according to Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), home electrical fires account for approximately 51,000 fires each year!

Take a look at each of the electrical cords powering your electronics and replace any which are cracked, frayed, or damaged.

#3: Do you have any electrical cords running under rugs?

Image: AEC Business

I know you want to hide your cords to keep a clean look, but this can’t come at the expense of implementing something that’s dangerous and likely to cause problems down the road.

Because rugs are designed to protect your floor from dirt, shoes, pets, and much more, they’re generally made from thick, durable material.

Well, this durable material can also act as an insulator to whatever it’s covering up…

So in the case of electrical cords, as they give off small amounts of heat, over time, it can prevent the cords from releasing heat properly and start a fire.

#4: Are your space heaters at least three feet from combustibles?

Space heaters can easily become your favorite in-home gadget during the winter.

They’re relatively cheap to run, and they can warm up your whole apartment.

One of the main areas of caution, however, is that it represents a relatively serious fire hazard if not used properly.

Put some care into where you place your space heater, so you don’t end up having a problem.  As a best practice, give at least three feet of space between your space heater and anything else.

And absolutely be sure it’s not touching anything such as sheets or curtains.


#5: Is your fire escape window clear and unobstructed?

It’s clear by now that every second counts in a fire, so if you need to get out onto your apartment fire escape, you don’t want to be fighting to clear a path.

Be sure there aren’t any tables, planters, or other obstructions you would need to move to get out onto your fire escape in an emergency.

If you have to exit through a common area or hallway to get out onto your fire escape, talk to your landlord if any of the building décors takes priority over your ability to escape during an emergency safely.


#6: Can your windows be easily opened from inside?

If you need to escape through your window by descending a fire ladder, using the fire escape, or being rescued, the ability to easily open your windows is critical.

Take a few minutes to test the windows you have and be sure each of them can be easily opened in case you need to use it as an escape route.


#7: Are your building stairwells free of storage and rubbish?

Fortunately, this is another one that takes just a second to test, and your building management is required to enforce if there is a consistent issue.

Take the stairs to exit your building to review all of your escape options or while you practice your  fire escape plan.

If you notice things left in the stairwell, such as garbage, boxes, or other debris, let your building management know so they can follow up to ensure you won’t be wasting precious seconds maneuvering around obstacles while trying to evacuate a fire.


#8: Are the exit lights in your stairwells in working order?

On your way out during a fire, it’s likely the lights in the stairwell will serve as your navigation along with either a flashlight or glow stick from your Fire Escape Kit.

As people evacuate and smoke fills the stairwell, the stairwell lights will shine through the smoke helping to light your way, so you know which floor you’re on and have a sense for which direction to go.

While checking your stairwells for storage and rubbish in Step #7, also take a look at the emergency lights to be sure they’re operating properly so you can rely on them in a crisis.

Again, if you find any that aren’t working properly, your building management will be happy to hear from you and gladly replace them… better you than a compliance agent, right?


#9: Do you have a fire escape plan?

Image: Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs

Spending a few minutes to create a home fire escape plan, so you have a predetermined set of actions for getting out of every room in your apartment and to your escape routes means you won't waste valuable time when a fire breaks out.

If you still haven’t created your fire safety plan or need a refresher, take a few minutes and walk through this quick guide to develop your own home fire escape plan.
Make sure everyone in your family is familiar with the plan, knows their role during an emergency, and all of the escape routes. Doing so is one of the best ways to learn how to survive a fire.


#10: Is your Fire Escape Kit stored in an accessible location?

Fire Escape Kit

When the alarm sounds and you need to make your escape, you need to be able to quickly grab your Fire Escape Kit or Fire Mask and get out of the building.

Once you break the seal on your smoke mask, you will have 60 minutes of filtered air.  Use your glow stick to navigate or signal others, and your gloves and heat reflective blanket will help protect you while you make your escape to safety.

Keep your kit or mask stored in an accessible location, preferably near your bed or closet on the way out of your apartment.



This home fire safety checklist should serve as a quick way for you to limit the risk of a fire breaking out in your apartment…

And increase your chances of making a safe escape if you do find yourself in a building fire.

I know fires are a real threat, and you can never totally alleviate the risk or worry of one breaking out… particularly by someone else not holding up their end of the bargain by following the steps above…

But survival, resilience, and independence start with you and your family, so be sure you're doing everything in your power to be prepared should a fire break out.

If you have any questions about the steps above or have anything you think I should add to the home fire safety checklist, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.


About the Author

Kevin is the co-founder of Go Time Gear.

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