Be Fire Smart: Tips for High-Rise Apartment Dwellers

Fire safety should be as much a part of high-rise apartment living as a panoramic view, elevators or doormen. Some apartments have smoke alarms and others have security systems, but these devices alone do not provide complete fire safety. High-rise apartment tenants should develop and practice a fire escape plan.    

The plan should include a sketch of the apartment showing all windows, doors, stairwells and any other alternate means of escape. The escape routes should be clearly marked in red on the sketch.

Fire drills should be held so that each member of the family knows the location of all exit stairwells and how to get to them as quickly as possible. Special provisions should be made for the elderly and the very young, by assigning another member of the family to help them escape safely.

Here are some additional fire safety tips for high-rise apartment dwellers:

  • If a fire occurs, do not panic. Staying calm will increase chances of survival.
  • Remember that smoke rises. It also kills.
  • Even if you can tolerate the smoke while standing, it is safer to crawl to the door.
  • Do not open the door until you have checked to be sure there isn't fire on the other side. Feel the door knob. If it is hot, the fire may be just outside your door.
  • Brace your shoulder or foot against the door and open with extreme caution. Should you be confronted with a high concentration of super-heated air or smoke, close the door immediately.
  • If the hall is passable, use one of your pre-designated escape routes.
  • Do not waste time gathering personal belongings, but shut the door and take your key.
  • Do not use the elevator. It may stall due to heat or loss of power.
  • If you must use an inside stairwell, check for smoke before entering the stairwell.
  • If the stairwell is safe to enter, WALK downward, do not run. Hold onto wall or handrail to prevent falling.
  • If your escape route is blocked, it may be safer to return to your apartment.
  • If you must return to your apartment or remain in your apartment because escape routes are blocked, open a window slightly to let smoke escape. Do not break the window because you may need to close it if there is smoke on the outside.
  • Do not jump. You may not survive the fall.
  • If you must remain in the apartment, close all vents and air ducts. Wet towels and sheets and stuff them around the doors.


The best thing an alert apartment dweller can do is to practice safety at all times: never block windows or doors with heavy furniture; eliminate potential fire hazards by not allowing trash to accumulate in the apartment or around the building; keep kitchen air ducts free of grease; don't store flammable materials in the apartment. 

Report all potential fire hazards to your building superintendent. If no action is taken, report the condition to the fire department or other authorities.

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