Are you an apartment dweller? If not, do you enjoy an occasional stay in a hotel or motel?
The theme for our columns this month has been fire safety at home — but sometimes home is an apartment, and sometimes a hotel or motel becomes your home away from home. Wherever you live, even if it is just for a few days, it’s good to keep fire safety in mind.
Just like living in a typical stick-built house or a manufactured home, if you live in an apartment it’s critical to think through how you can prevent fire and respond to a fire alarm.
Here are some tips for apartment dwellers from the National Fire Protection Association:
Know the locations of all exit stairs from your floor. If the nearest one is blocked by fire or smoke, you may need to use another exit.
Know where the manual fire alarm boxes are in your building. Most are found within 5 feet of an exit door.
If there is a fire, pull the fire alarm on your way out of the building. (Also call the fire department once you are safely outside.)
Treat every fire alarm as an emergency. When the alarm sounds, get outside — and stay at your predetermined meeting place until the all-clear is given.
If the fire alarm sounds, feel the door before opening. If it is hot, use another way out.
Close all doors behind you as you leave. Take the key to your apartment with you in case you are not able to get out of the building.
If fire or smoke is blocking all exits, return to your apartment. Keep the door closed. Cover cracks around the door with tape or rolled-up towels. Call 9-1-1 and let the fire department know you are trapped. Signal from the window by waving a flashlight or light-colored cloth.
Use a manual fire alarm box only if there is smoke or fire. Frequent false alarms are a problem because people may begin to ignore the sound if they hear it too many times. In addition, false alarms can put firefighters at risk.
HOME AWAY FROM HOME
This year’s theme for Fire Prevention Week, which we observed the second week of October, was “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware — fire can happen anywhere.”
Even if you are on vacation or on a business trip, that doesn’t mean fire isn’t a risk. (In fact, one of every 13 hotels or motels reports a structure fire each year.)
So, it is just as important to be prepared and know what you would do in a hotel/motel emergency as it is in your own home.
Choose a hotel/motel that is protected by both smoke alarms and a fire sprinkler system.
When you check in, ask the front desk what the fire alarm sounds like.
Take the time to find the exits and to count the number of doors between your room and the exit. Make sure the exits are unlocked. If they are locked, report it to management right away.
Keep your room key by your bed and take it with you if there is a fire.
If the alarm sounds, leave right away, closing all doors behind you. Use the stairs; never use elevators during a fire.
If you must escape through smoke, get down low and go under the smoke to your exit.
If you can’t escape, immediately shut off fans and air conditioners. Stuff wet towels in the cracks around the doors, call the fire department and let them know your location. Then, wait at the window and signal with a flashlight or light-colored cloth.
Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is executive director. For questions about home repair, renting, remodeling or buying, call 360-533-7828 or visit 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen.