Between 2013 and 2015, fires accounted for $1.4 billion in loss, in multi-family residential buildings (like apartment communities) alone. One of the best ways to avoid these catastrophes is to know what causes them. As they say, knowledge is power.
Below, we'll list the five most common causes of apartment fires so that you can stay safe and take intentional action to prevent them.
According to data from 2016, over 50 percent of residential fires are caused by cooking. Data also shows that the majority of cooking-related fires are caused by ignition of common household items like wallpaper, rags, curtains and plastic bags. That's probably why these fires are so common, but luckily, they're just as easy to avoid.
The best steps you can take to avoid cooking fires are to keep your cooking area clear of combustibles and to never leave the stove top unattended. You also must pay close attention to whether stove burners and your oven are on or off. Unintentionally turning on or leaving on a heat source is one of the most common causes of a cooking fire.
Heaters are the second most common cause of residential fires. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that space heaters alone cause an average of 21, 800 residential fires per year — 300 of which will be fatal.
Heaters are important, especially in parts of the U.S. that get bitterly cold during the winter. That being said, there's a way to use them safely to ensure that use doesn't result in tragedy.
FEMA's National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) shows that fires in multifamily residential buildings are higher in months where you'd expect cooler weather. This likely correlates to heaters being a leading cause of fires in these types of buildings.
If you use a heater in your apartment, be adamant about never leaving it unattended, always unplug/power down the device when not in use and always be sure to keep anything flammable at least three feet away.
One of the next most common causes of residential fires is electrical malfunction. According to FEMA, 6.5 percent of residential fires in 2016 were related to electrical malfunction. Though it may seem like electrical malfunction is unavoidable, there are a number of bad habits that can be corrected to better your chances of escaping this catastrophe.
Bottom line: If you aren't sure about the safety of an electrical component in your home, call an electrician or contact your landlord!
Arson is the following leading cause of fires in apartments homes. FEMA data shows that, of fires that are considered large and serious or "non-confined fires," the leading cause was intentional harm.
Arson is defined as,"involving fires where the person setting the fire had the intent to commit harm by setting the fire." You obviously can't do anything to keep yourself safe from criminal arson outside of installing security systems in your home or building a fence. But, it is important to note that in cases of arson, accident is often hard to distinguish from actual arson.
Accidental fires from the people who live in your home (perhaps children) are much easier to prevent than criminal arson. Keep any ignition sources away from prying hands. That means keeping lighters, matches and other similar tools in drawers or high enough that children can't get to them.
Appliances are a part of most everyone's day-to-day life and are standard in most apartments. But if the proper precautions aren't taken, many of these useful tools have the potential to cause serious damage.
Appliances account for nearly four percent of all residential fires according to FEMA, so you should definitely consider taking precautions against accidental fires caused by appliances.
When using household appliances, always ensure that you aren't operating them near water. Even if the appliance, big or small, is to be used in the bathroom or near water, make sure you aren't at risk of electrical shock. Additionally, always follow formal operating instructions outlines by the manufacturer of your household appliances.
A fire in an apartment building is no joke. Luckily, there are a number of things you can to do be proactive in preventing a fire in the first place and responding to one if it does happen.
Knowing how to respond properly to an emergency like a fire can make a world of difference. If you live in an apartment building, it's important to know if your building is considered "fireproof." If so, it may actually be safer for you to stay inside of your apartment rather than evacuating.
Another very important tip is to stay on top of fire-safety equipment maintenance. Smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years by you or you landlord and you might even consider installing a fire extinguisher in your home.
Now that you know the most common causes of apartment fires — as well as some steps you can take to avoid them — hopefully, you feel safer and more confident to enjoy your life in your apartment home.
No matter how much you believe it will never happen to you, if you aren't cautious and prepared, it could. There's no harm in knowing the small steps to take now to avoid tragedy down the road.
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