Home Fire Safety Tips for Landlords and Property Managers

The top causes & prevention tips every Property Manager and Tenant should know!

As a property management company in Chicago it’s our duty to make sure all our clients are aware of any potential hazards. Read on below to learn the leading causes of fires in the home.

fire stationKitchen Safety

According to the NFPA, the majority of household fires begin in the kitchen, with 43% originating from ranges or cooktops. While having fun cooking with family and friends, it is important to alert throughout the process:

  1.     Keep items that can catch fire away from your cooking area
  2.     Keep an eye on what you fry, due to high oil temperatures

Another culprit of kitchen fires involves portable cooking/warming units, like toasters. While you may not think these items can cause a fire since you use them everyday, they can ignite from the extreme heat within and flammable materials surrounding them. When using these items, it is important to remember to keep oven mitts, paper towels, and other flammable materials away from the heat source.

Top property managers will discuss with property owners and tenants the importance of a proper kitchen fire extinguisher, as well as a working kitchen smoke detector. It is important that tenants replace the battery on an as needed basis.

care cautionWhen using appliances follow the manufacturer’s safety precautions. Overheating, unusual smells, and sparks are all warning signs for appliances. Immediately shut off and unplug appliances that sputter, spark or emit an unusual smell and have them professionally repaired or replaced.

Staying Warm & Safe

Household heating equipment, such as furnaces, fireplaces, and space heaters place second for leading cause of fires in the home. If a furnace appears to be faulty, professional property managers will ensure that a licensed technician properly examines it. The landlord or property manager will want to make sure a carbon monoxide detector is installed within the proper proximity to this unit to avoid inhalation should the unit begin to leak fumes.

Fireplaces should be cleaned annually if used during the prior year. As winter approaches, tenants may want to notify their Landlord that they have in the past or plan onusing their fireplace throughout the upcoming season. The chimney should be cleaned to remove the buildup of creosote, which can ignite, causing a fire to quickly spread. When in use, keep the fire in the fireplace through the use of fire screens.

In addition to a cozy fire throughout the winter months, tenants may find the need for a space heater in certain areas of their home and should notify their Landlord accordingly. While using a space heater, renters will want to keep them three feet away from any sheets, drapes or furniture. As a side note, space heaters tend to use a lot of energy, so it may be best to plug it into an outlet that has no other plugs in it to avoid tripping the breaker.

Kerosene heaters should be used only where approved by authorities. Never use gasoline or camp stove fuel. Refuel outside and only after the heater has cooled.

Even if you always clean the lint trap in your dryer after every load, it is important to clean your dryer vent annually. Your dryer gets very hot during use and lint is highly combustible. Not to mention, your dryer is connected to the gas line so a small fire can escalate.

Electrical Safety

Frayed wires are common causes in electrical fires. Items that heat up like toasters, lamps, blow dryers and hair straighteners should be commonly inspected.

Power cords/cables can generate heat so running them under carpets or rugs may cause an extensive amount of heat that can cause the rug to melt or ignite. Also, make sure your outlets are not overloaded with plugs, which can cause a short circuit, a spark, and then a fire.

For any do-it-yourself (DIY) projects that include the use of wiring and electricity, it is best to utilize the services provided by a licensed electrician, since many home fires stem from improper installation.

Older homes and apartments can have inadequate wiring which can lead to an electrical hazard and possibly a fire. Some warning signs include:

  1. the need to disconnect one appliance to plug in another
  2. the need to use extension cords or “octopus” outlets extensively
  3. fuses blow or circuit breakers trip frequently
  4. lights dim when using another appliance

Always avoid overloading circuits or extension cords and placing cords and wires under rugs, over nails, or in high traffic areas. Use safety caps to cover all unused outlets, especially if there are small children in the home.

Early Warning

Smoke alarms are the most important source of fire detection. Every home should have at least one working unit per floor with the batteries being changed every 6 months. Detectors should be installed close enough to the bedrooms for the alarm to be heard when the door is closed.smoke fire

It is important to remember not to install a detector within 3 ft. of an air supply register that can possibly blow the smoke away inhibiting detection. If you plan on installing more than one per residence, you may consider purchasing interconnected units. When one detects smoke, all detector’s alarms will sound.

Retired Chicago Firefighter and now Fire Science Program Coordinator at Harper College in Palatine, Professor Samuel A. Giordano Jr., provided the following thoughts:

“Most Fires occur at Night. Smoke alarms are a key part of a home fire escape plan. When there is a fire, smoke spreads fast. Working smoke alarms give you early warning so you can get outside quickly. Install smoke alarms inside and outside each bedroom and sleeping area and on every level of the home including your basement. Your ability to get out of your house during a fire depends on advance warning from smoke alarms and advance planning.  Your life depends on this!”

Whether you just need to find the right tenants for your investment property, or you want everything managed from top to bottom to live the life you deserve, just contact Anthony Zammitt and let Lofty handle the rest.


Sources Used:

  • Source, Home Structure Fires, Marty Ahrens, April 2013. NFPA, 1 Batterymarch Park, Quincy, MA 02169, www.nfpa.org
  • Fire Analysis & Research Division, [email protected]