Condominiums are required to follow fire codes, so residents feel safer in these buildings than in ordinary apartments. All the same, you must not forego conducting your own fire safety measures. Condos generally have more people living in it, making leaving the building in case of fire trickier. The following tips will help you take the necessary safety measures.
Choosing the right condo unit
The primary way you can avoid fire and protect your home is to be very meticulous when choosing the condo unit that you buy or rent. The following guidelines will help you:
- Choose a unit that is as close to the ground as possible. This will let you have a quick escape. It will also be easier to rescue you from lower floors, as firefighters’ ladders can only reach up to a certain height.
- While a view of the pool is preferable, units that are facing the main road are more accessible for firefighters.
- Hire a professional to check your unit so you can make sure it meets the standard code.
- Choose a property that is situated in an area where roads are unobstructed and wide so fire trucks can easily reach it.
Be well informed of your condo’s evacuation plans and fire exits
Condos are designed so that they have enough emergency exits, ensuring that all residents are able to leave the building the fastest way possible and with the least trouble. These exit plans are displayed on a map that is available on every floor. Make sure you master the map. Locate your unit, and check your proximity to the exit. This will also help you find your way out should there be a blackout in your building.
If you notice anything that impedes the safe passage of residents in the condo, such as stuff blocking the fire escapes and nonworking lightbulbs in stairwells, make sure you inform the property management right away.
In your own unit, make sure your windows are not rusted or stuck in place so you can easily use them for your escape route in case of an emergency. You may also check if you would be able to remove your air conditioning so you can escape through its hole in the window. Remember to place a list of emergency contacts anywhere accessible, preferably next to the phone.
Keep a fire extinguisher in your condo unit
As per the Fire Code, your building should have fire extinguishers even if it has automatic sprinklers, hose or standpipe. There should be at least one fire extinguisher in every 200 square meters of open space. If the space of this size is separated into two, then each should have a fire extinguisher of its own.
Even if your building is following the rules to a T, you should still have your own fire extinguisher in your condo unit. You should also make sure everyone who lives with you knows how to use it.
Get a smoke detector
A smoke detector plays the crucial role of alerting you if there’s a fire even if you are not in the room, as it emits a sound as soon as there’s smoke. Make sure you have one in your unit. There are three main types of smoke detectors that you can choose from:
- Photoelectric alarms – the alarm is triggered when smoke particles deflect a strobe light onto a sensor.
- Ionization alarms – the alarm is triggered when smoke particles disrupt the electric current within the alarm.
- Dual-sensor alarm – combines the qualities of a photoelectric alarm and ionization alarm.
Make sure the alarm is functioning well by pressing the “Test” button. You can also light matches and hold them a few feet below the alarm so you can check if it is working well. You should check the batteries regularly. It is best to test the alarms once a month, and to replace its batteries twice a year. Ideally, you should have one smoke alarm in every room.
Know the drill when there’s a fire
You should also be well-informed of the proper ways to respond when there is a fire. The first thing you should do when there’s a fire is to call 911. Never assume that someone else has done so. Remember to provide your name and the exact address of your building. One other thing you should do right away is to proceed to the nearest escape route. Be focused on leaving right away.
According to the BFP, you only have two minutes before a room is engulfed in flames. Your first priority should be to get yourself and your loved ones out of the building. Every second counts during a fire, so just forego looking for your valuables as they will only consume time and weigh you down. You want to be as quick as possible. If the fire is coming from one room, close the door as you leave. This will help contain the deadly smoke and delay the spread of the fire.
As per the BFP, suffocation is one of the main reasons people die in a fire. Note that smoke tends to gather higher off of the ground, mostly at the ceiling. It is best to stay as close to the ground as possible. You may have to crawl while escaping the building. If possible, cover your mouth with a wet cloth while escaping.
Before you open any door, feel the handle and the door itself for heat. If it’s hot, refrain from opening it as the room behind it may already be burning. Do not use the elevators when escaping. The power may go out, leaving you trapped in the lift. If all the exits are blocked by flames, shut yourself in your condo unit and cover the door gaps with damp blankets and towels. You want to keep the smoke from getting in. Dial 911 and inform the firefighters of your exact location.
Look for an area with a window where you can signal for help. Wave a bright cloth while yelling out for help. Should you need fresh air, slightly open a window and breathe through it. Make sure you do not break the window as you may need to close it again if smoke starts coming from outside the building. If you end up catching fire, avoid running as it will only fan the flames. Stop in your tracks, drop to the floor, and keep rolling until the fire is out. Once you have successfully left the building, refrain from going back inside until the firefighters declare the building safe.
Keep your peace of mind
The Fire Code of the Philippines has established rules that buildings like condominiums should implement before they can secure a permission to operate. The fact that your condo is already operating, it is safe to assume that the city/municipal fire marshal has already issued a Fire Safety Inspection Certificate to the property. This is especially true if you are dealing with the more established developments like DMCI Properties. So while you make sure that you take the necessary precautions, and are prepared to properly respond in case a fire breaks out, make sure you do not do it out of fear or paranoia. Keep your peace of mind, and trust that you are secure at home.
Condo living has its many perks, making it a great choice for urban dwelling. Make sure you do not disrupt the way of life you have gotten used to by taking precautions that will prevent fire.