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Environmental Health & Safety

Apartment Fire Safety

Smoke Detectors

  • For every residence facility (apartment, maisonettes or condominium), there should be at least one smoke detector located on every floor between each sleeping area and the living areas.
  • Although it would be preferable to have a smoke detector in each bedroom, the hallway next to bedrooms or sleeping areas should be a priority location for a smoke detector.
  • In a single floor dwelling, a smoke detector should be placed in the hallway near the bedrooms.  In a multiple floor dwelling, there should be at least one smoke detector on each floor.
  • On ceilings, smoke detectors should be mounted away from corners and walls, which have dead space nearby.  About 8 – 10 inches is the recommended distance.
  • When wall mounted, the top of the smoke detector should be no closer than 4” from the ceiling.
  • In a room with a pitched ceiling, a smoke detector should be mounted at or near the ceiling’s highest point.
  • Smoke detectors should be located away from air vents or registers; high airflow, bathroom, kitchens or “dead” spots are to be avoided.
  • Smoke detectors should never be painted.
  • Replace smoke detector batteries every 6 months.
  • Never disconnect a good smoke detector battery to use for another purpose.  If a smoke detector is being activated without the presence of smoke or a fire, either the detector is dirty and should be cleaned or it is in a poor location and is detecting things like steam from a shower or perhaps small particles from cooking.

Escape Plan

  • Know where all the exits from your residence facility are.
  • Develop an emergency escape plan from your bedroom that includes a primary and alternative escape route.
  • The escape plan should include a place safely outside the residence where residents can meet to make sure everyone got out.

Fire Extinguishers

  • There should be at least one fire extinguisher in the cooking area or kitchen.
  • A dry chemical fire extinguisher is generally preferred for use in residence facilities.  Dry chemical extinguishers labeled “ABC” are suitable for fighting almost any type of residential fire.  They are red in color and have a gauge.  They range in size from 2.5 lbs. to 20 lbs.  Dry chemical extinguishers put out a fire by coating the fuel with a thin layer of dust, separating the fuel from oxygen in the air.
  • Unless you have absolutely no other choice, do not attempt to extinguish a fire with a portable fire extinguisher if any of the following conditions exists:
    • The fire is spreading rapidly.
    • You can’t do so with your back to an exit.
    • The fire might block your means of escape.
    • You might inhale toxic smoke.
    • Your instincts tell you not to do so.
  • Rechargeable fire extinguishers must be serviced after every use.

Electric Space Heaters

  • Electric space heaters are not recommended for the residential environment.
  • Space heater should be kept at least three (3) feet away from any combustible material (upholstered furniture, curtains, clothing etc.)
  • Nothing should ever be placed on top of or touching a space heater.
  • If used, space heaters should always be plugged into a wall receptacle, never into extension cords or surger protector.
  • If use, space heaters should be located in plain sight and clearly visible. Only ceramic type space heaters are permitted. Space heaters should be located in plain sight and clearly visible.
  • Space heaters should always be turned off and unplugged when not in use.
  • Space heaters should always be positioned on a solid floor and not on top of a cabinet, furniture, table etc.
  • Space heaters should not be used to dry wearing apparel, towels, shoes, etc.

Kerosene Heaters

  • Kerosene heaters are not permitted for the residential environment.

Use of Extension Cords and Power Strips/Surge Protectors

  • Extension cords should only be used to provide temporary power and should not be used in place of permanent wiring.
  • Extension cords should be used to lengthen an appliance cord for temporary use, not multiply the number of outlets available.
  • When used, the diameter of an extension cord should be as large as (or larger than) the appliance cord.
  • All extension cords must be approved by a national testing agency, such as Underwriter’s Laboratory or Factory Mutual.
  • Extension cords should be no longer than six (6) foot in length for interior use and no longer than 100 foot in length for exterior use.
  • Use polarized extension cords only (one of the prongs is wider than the other, preventing the plug from being inserted incorrectly).
  • Never use extension cords in tandem (e.g., “daisy-chaining”) or plugging one into another.
  • Old, cracked or frayed extension cords should be discarded.  They can become a fire hazard.
  • Extension cords should never be run under carpets or rugs.
  • When disconnecting extension cords, pull the plug rather than the cord itself.
  • Use only 3-wire extension cords for appliances with 3-prong plugs.  Never remove the third round or U-shaped prong safety feature (ground prong) designed to reduce the risk of shock or electrocution.
  • Stretch out an extension cord.  Using it while it is coiled or looped can generate excessive heat.
  • Do not attach extension cords to building surfaces using staples or nails – this can damage the cord and create a shock or fire hazard.
  • Power strips/surge protectors must be approved by a national testing agency, such as Underwriter’s Laboratory or Factory Mutual.
  • Multiple-outlet power strip/surge protectors should only be used to provide over-current or transient voltage surge protection for electrically sensitive devices such as computers, printers, fax machines, etc.  They should not be used to extend the number or reach of outlets.  Do not plug a power strip/surge protector into an existing power strip/surge protector (piggybacking).
  • Do not plug more than one power strip/surge protector into a dual electrical outlet.
  • Use only power strips/surge protectors than have a built-in breaker.

Use of Candles

  • Use of candles is not permitted in our residential housing.

Kitchen Fire Safety

  • Sixty-five percent of all residential fires are related to the kitchen.
  • Keep combustibles – potholders, pizza boxes, plastic utensils, towels, etc. away from hot surfaces.  Turn off all heat-generating appliances when not in use.
  • Pot handles should not extend out from a kitchen stove or range.
  • Don’t leave spoons or other utensils in pots while cooking.
  • Keep curtains and towel racks away from a stove or range.
  • Keep sturdy oven mitts or potholders near the cooking area.
  • Use only microwave-safe utensils in microwave ovens.  Do not use metal or plastic products.
  • The storage area above a stove or range should not contain any flammable or combustible items.
  • For stove or range, the exhaust fan should be on while cooking.
  • Clean vent filters regularly.
  • It may be dangerous to attempt to put out a grease fire with an extinguisher.  An extinguishing agent released under pressure can spread a grease fire in a frying pan rather than put it out.  Smother a grease fire by sliding a lid (or larger pot) over the pan or by spreading baking soda over the fire.
  • Never use water, flour or baking powder to attempt to extinguish cooking fires.  These may cause the fire to get larger or create an explosion.
  • When cooking, wear appropriate clothing, such as short or tight-fitting sleeves and tight-fitting shirts, robes, gowns, etc.
  • Check for and clean up accumulated grease from the stove, oven or exhaust fan regularly.  Cooking grease and oil ignite easily and burn rapidly.
  • Never leave a stove or range unattended when cooking, especially when the burner is turned to a high setting.
  • If you have to leave the room to accept a telephone call, turn the stove or range burners off – the call may take longer than you anticipated.
  • Keep an ABC-type fire extinguisher in or very near to the kitchen.

Smoking of Tobacco Products

  • The number one cause of fatal fires in residences is smoking.
  • Never smoke in bed.
  • Keep lighter and matches out of sight and out of reach of children.  Never allow a child to play with either of them.
  • If smoking is permitted, have large, heavy ashtrays located in various locations.
  • Always check to see that cigarettes are extinguished before emptying ashtrays.  Stubs still burning can ignite trash.
  • Do not place or leave ashtrays on the arms of chairs where they can be knocked off.
  • After a party or social gathering, check thoroughly for ashes or unextinguished cigarettes that may have fallen behind or between cushions and under furniture.

Flammable Materials

  • Never spray aerosols (perfume, hair spray) while smoking, or near a space heater, range or other ignition source.

Frozen Water Pipes

  • Never attempt to thaw out frozen water pipes with a blowtorch or other open flames.  Use hot water or a UL labeled device for thawing.

Contact EH&S at (585) 275-3241 or e-mail EH&S Questions.

This page last updated 6/28/2011. Disclaimer.