People who live in apartments or high-rise buildings should regularly check that smoke alarms are operational and know the location of emergency exists and fire-fighting equipment as well as the building's evacuation plan. As well as having these reactive measures in place, an awareness of the common causes of apartment fires and how to avoid them will help to prevent a fire before one occurs.
Cooking and Kitchen Equipment
According to the National Fire Protection Association, the majority of domestic fires start in the kitchen, most commonly as a result of residents becoming distracted when cooking and forgetting that they have something on the stove top. Tea towels and oven mitts left too close to the cooking source, grease splatters from frying and pots boiling over also pose the risk of starting a fire. To avoid starting a fire in the kitchen, don't leave cooking unattended or use a timer if leaving the room, and always keep the cooking area free of objects like towels.
Heaters, Dryers and Electrical Appliances
The second most common cause of fires in the home is heating equipment. These appliances may spark a fire through mechanical malfunction or by overheating and igniting nearby objects. Clothes dryers may catch alight through mechanical failure or because the owner simply forgets to empty the lint filter regularly. Other faulty electrical equipment or frayed electrical cords in contact with flammable surfaces may also result in a fire. Heaters should be kept at least 3 feet away from anything and, since apartments generally have only one exit, ensure that the heater is not obstructing it. Other appliances should be regularly checked and properly maintained.
Smoking and Candles
Many fires start when a smoker falls asleep with a lit cigarette, when cigarettes are left smoldering in a full ashtray or when other flammable items like candles, oil burners or incense are left burning. To avoid igniting a fire, smokers should never smoke lying down or only smoke outdoors. They should ensure that their cigarettes are fully extinguished when finished with them -- dousing them in water is one method of guaranteeing this. Candles and other lit objects should never be left unattended, even if leaving the room for just a brief period.
Arson and Children
Deliberately lit fires are a significant cause of property damage, death and injury but even more so are fires accidentally lit by children playing with lighters and matches. While little can be done to avoid being the victim of an intentionally lit fire by an unknown party, measures can be taken to prevent children from playing with fire. Matches and lighters should be stored where children cannot see or reach them, and children must be taught from an early age that these items are strictly for adult use only.
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