Keeping families safe during the winter is always a priority. With cooler temps setting in, heaters and fireplaces are being used more. Holiday decorations get brought out, and because these items aren’t a part of our daily lives, hidden dangers may be present.
To make sure that you and your tenants are working hard to protect your property and each other, start by communicating with the community. Create a list of dangers and how to avoid them and distribute using several methods to be sure the word gets out. Send a letter or email to each tenant, text reminders, and post in common areas where everyone will see. If you’re not sure what to include, here are some ideas.
If fireplaces are present, it’s critical to provide instructions to your tenants upon move-in and follow up with a reminder in the fall when the heating season begins. Many people may be under the impression that simply tossing a log in the fireplace is all that’s necessary. But it’s critical to know how important it is to open the damper while the fireplace is in use and closed otherwise. Here are a few more safety tips:
- Short Durations. Modern fireplaces aren’t designed to be a primary source of heat. Instead, limit fires to five hours or less. Never leave a fire unattended!
- Screen & Glass. When enjoying a fire, keep the glass open to keep the flame oxygenated, but be sure to keep the screen closed to keep sparks in the fireplace. For gas fireplaces, keep the glass closed.
- Protective Rug. Use a nonflammable rug in front of the fireplace to protect the carpet from melting or catching fire from sparks or embers.
- Ash Removal. Fireplaces need to be regularly swept, but coals and embers can remain hot for as many as three days! Make sure to wait at least this long before sweeping out the ashes into a metal container. You should then wet them with water and put them outside until garbage day, when they can be disposed of.
Your responsibilities as the property owner are to ensure that chimneys are regularly swept – at least annually for busy fireplaces – and to have each fireplace and chimney periodically inspected by an expert for damage, wear, and other fire hazards.
Christmas trees can be a major source of a fire during the winter because of the holidays. However, they can also pose a real threat to your tenants and property once the holidays have passed if they aren’t discarded of properly. Most of these hazards result in failing to follow a few safety precautions. Here’s what you should be communicating to your tenants:
- Fresh Trees. Old and dry trees are far more likely to catch fire than a healthy fresh one. When selecting a tree, look for one with bright green needles that are difficult to pluck and bend rather than snap. Most trees will shed a few needles when disrupted, but when given a good shake, there shouldn’t be a large circle of needles on the floor.
- Heat Sources. Your tree should be placed far from sources of heat such as vents, radiators, fireplaces, and candles.
- Water. Live trees should be placed in a stand and filled with water. Check the water level twice a day to ensure it remains full. Even after cutting, a live tree will continue to consume water; without it, the tree will die and dry out quickly.
- Indoor Lights. Check the packaging for all lights to ensure they have been tested by the UL or ETL/ITSNA and that they are suitable for indoor use. Outdoor-only lights may burn a little warmer and are not safe for indoor use. Unplug Christmas tree lights before leaving the home and before going to bed each night.
- Discard. Many families will take down their tree at the first of the New Year, but others tend to leave them up a little longer – sometimes too long. Leaving a Christmas tree up can be just as big a fire hazard as leaving it near a flame. If the needles start to fall off and the pines are browning, it’s time to get rid of the tree. However, it’s recommended to discard of it before it reaches this point.
Help promote prompt removal of Christmas trees after the season by giving your tenants a place to put discarded trees. Some municipalities provide free Christmas tree pickup and recycling and most provide a drop-off location for old trees. If your area does not provide pickup services, consider offering this for your tenants.
Oven & Stove Safety
We all use our stoves on a daily basis to prepare meals, and most of us don’t think too much about their safety other than to use an oven mitt when handling hot pans. As the property owner, you should ensure that all ovens and stovetops provided in your units are safety tested before purchase and be sure to register your appliances with the manufacturer after installation. That way, you can be notified of recalls and other safety alerts. Always make sure appliances are properly installed with the manufacturer recommended clearances, hoods, wiring, and venting.
For your tenants, be sure to communicate the following:
- Awareness. Never leave the stove or oven unattended while in use.
- Clean is Safe. Spilled food, grease, and crumbs can be a source of a fire. A clean stovetop and oven are a safer stovetop and oven.
- Personal Safety. Keep long hair tied back and sleeves rolled up. Remove any loose jewelry and wear non-slip shoes or use a non-slip rug in the kitchen.
- Safety Checks. Before each use, make sure there is no odor of natural gas, if applicable. Make sure the oven is empty and position oven racks before preheating. Check for food particles and grease buildup before each use.
- Stovetop Safety. Always use back burners whenever possible, and never use a pot that’s too large or small for the burner. Never leave an empty pan on a burner and be sure to turn all handles inward to avoid accidentally knocking them over.
General Fire Safety Tips
Candles tend to be used more during the winter season. Keep burning candles away from children, pets, and near anything that can catch fire such as furniture, drapes, and paper. Only use candle holders designed for candle use and place them on a stable, heat-resistant surface.
Small appliances such as toasters and personal devices such as curling irons and straighteners should be unplugged while not in use. No smoking should be allowed anywhere on the property. Not only will this reduce fire hazards, but it will also help keep the place cleaner as well.
Dryer lint traps should be cleaned after each use to prevent fire. Educate tenants in units with washers and dryers and post signage in common laundry areas reminding users to clean the lint traps.
In the event of a fire or other malfunction, it’s critical that smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working correctly. Change the batteries and test each alarm twice annually, and educate tenants to avoid tampering with or vandalizing fire safety equipment.
Lastly, fire extinguishers should already be present in multi-unit buildings, but it may be beneficial to provide fire extinguishers in each unit or in easily accessible locations in common areas such as hallways and in laundry areas for buildings where extinguishers may not be required.
Ensuring that all of these safety tips are implemented can be overwhelming. But with the help of a property management company like Bay Management Group, they take it upon themselves make sure your tenants are aware of these safety tips and that your unit is up to all safety standards. If you’re ready to get started, contact our team today – we’re ready to help!