Fire Safety & Prevention in your Apartment Complex

by Krishanu

Did you know that the most common cause of fire in residential complexes is electricity? While we gear up our housing society and individual apartments towards the upcoming celebrations of Navratri, Dussehra & Diwali, it’s important that we also keep fire safety precautions in mind.

In Residential Communities, proper fire safety mechanism and equipments are extremely important to prevent loss of life and damage to property. In an apartment complex, as residential units are built very close to each other, risk associated with fire is also very high.


Fire Safety: Some Basics

Broadly there are 2 methods adopted in the industry to prevent, control and extinguish Fire. These methods use the following types of systems:

  1. Active Systems: These are engineered systems using various media for detecting and extinguishing fires manually or automatically.
  2. Passive Systems: These are systems built into the structure of a building to contain and limit the spread of fire. These systems compartmentalise a building through the use of fire-resistance rated walls and floors, keeping the fire from spreading quickly and providing time to escape for people in the building. These aspects are taken care of in the design of the apartment complex.

Active Systems can be broadly classified in to the following:

  1. Fire Detection Systems: Fire generates smoke, heat and flame and detection systems are designed to detect any of these elements or a combination of these elements by using Sensors or Detectors specifically manufactured for detecting these elements.
  2. Fire Fighting Systems: These systems are designed and engineered to actively fight and extinguish fire either manually or automatically. These systems use a variety of media to extinguish a fire. Choice of media is determined by the nature and type of combustible material causing the fire.

For Association members, things to keep in mind regarding Fire Safety of an Apartment Complex:

  1. As an Association member its important that you know and understand all fire systems installed in your apartment complex.
  2. It is important that you maintain all documents related to AMC and warranties of the fire fighting systems in one central repository so that you can keep track of all fire equipment, and have them maintained in good working condition. ADDA Asset Tracker can help in this regard. ADDA Asset Tracker would also send you automatic reminders for servicing, etc.

apartment management software

3. Conduct joint inspections with other association members, volunteers from the society and the apartment manager to verify all systems are in normal operating status. If discrepancies are found, record the same and initiate corrective action.

4. Be aware and familiarize yourself with the guidelines and requirements of National Building Code for Fire Drills and Evacuation Procedures for High Rise Buildings.

Precautions to be taken towards Fire Safety in your Apartment Complex

  1. Get your property and valuables insured
    Consider getting insurance against fire and other calamities. There are insurance policies which provides complete protection for property and contents. These insurance provides cover against loss from fire, burglary, theft, earthquakes and other natural calamities.
  2. Be aware of emergency contacts around your apartment complex
    Have emergency contacts like fire department, hospitals (specially ambulance service) handy. Save them in your mobile and tag them properly, so that you can easily find these numbers during an emergency.
  3. Add all your family members to ADDA
    In case any emergency situation arises in your apartment complex, your management committee would send cautionary notifications and safety tips to all residents. As ADDA is the place where all information about the residents would be present, important notifications are usually sent through ADDA. Add details of all your family members, or your tenants against your flat to ensure that they receive all notifications during emergencies and can take appropriate precautionary measures.
  4. Install and Maintain Proper Fire Detection Systems in your Apartment Complex
    Fire detection systems like smoke alarms should be installed on every floor of the apartment building. Smoke alarms should be tested at least twice a year. The smoke alarm should be tested using the test device located on the smoke alarm or any other test method recommended by the manufacturer. Do a visual check to ensure that the smoke alarm is securely fastened to the ceiling or wall and it is not obstructed in any manner. Check that the batteries are not leaking and are securely fastened. The batteries should anyways be changed once or twice a year. It should be cleaned by a regular household vacuum cleaner in regular intervals. Check the users manual for details on after how many years you should look for a replacing the device.
  5. Make sure that a clear Building Evacuation Plan is in place and the residents are aware of it
    Each floor should have clearly marked fire escape route. The fire exits should be marked clearly. It’s always a good practice to have more than one fire exit route which residents can take in case the primary route is blocked. Evacuation plans are best placed in lobbies, beside lifts, around notice boards, where usually there is high footfall. Also, have the safe assembly areas clearly marked so that it makes it easy to spot during emergencies.
  6. Maintain Fire Fighting devices in each floor and lobby
    As a best practice, at least one resident from each apartment should know how to handle fire fighting devices used in the apartment complex like fire extinguishers. The association and manager can setup these assets in ADDA Asset Tracker module for maintaining all fire systems related documents in one place.
  7. Have regular Fire Safety Sessions and Fire Drills
    Fire systems familiarisation sessions and fire drills should be held once every six months so that residents know how to use the fire fighting devices and are also aware of the fire safety rules, evacuation plans and safety processes which are implemented in your apartment complex.

Click here to read about the Building Compliance for Fire Safety in India by the National Building Code of India.

Fire safety equipment

Do’s and Don’t During a Fire Related Emergency

  • Urgently call the Fire Department and also an Ambulance.
  • Alert all family members and quickly move them towards the fire exit
  • Do not use lift.
  • When evacuating the building, be sure to feel doors for heat before opening them to be sure there is no fire danger on the other side.
  • If there is smoke in the air, stay low to the ground, especially your head, to reduce inhalation exposure. Keep one hand on the wall to prevent disorientation and crawl to the nearest exit.
  • If you are trapped in your room or building during fire try to stop smoke and fire getting into your room by using towels, blankets or spare cloths to block the gaps in the door.
  • If you catch fire on your clothes then stop, do panic or run. It will make fire burn faster and lead to more injuries or burn. Dropping on the ground and rolling can help extinguish the fire.
  • Try to use the nearest fire extinguisher and douse the fire. However, do not use an extinguisher if you are not sure what caused the fire, as different combustible material requires different type of fire extinguishers. Also, if the fire is too big and spreading very fast, then its best to move towards a safe assembly point outside the building and wait for fire department to arrive.

Click here for more details on how you can fight fire in high rise buildings.

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