FIRE SAFETY... Prepare and Practice

An apartment or building fire is one of the worse situations any resident can face. Fire can be quick, and deadly; residents should be aware of some important facts about fire, and follow a few steps to prepare, and practice in case there ever is a fire in an apartment or building.

In a matter of seconds a fire can spread quickly out of control. It can take as little as a minute for a room to be completely filled with thick black smoke and also be completely engulfed in flames. The heat of a fire can rise above 100 degrees at floor level and above 600 degrees at eye level in a very short period of time. In a matter of minutes everything in a room can become so hot that everything ignites at once.

Additionally, as items begin to burn, thick, black smoke can cause complete darkness. This smoke is also toxic. Odorless, colorless fumes can also spread into a room before the fire, which can cause confusion, sleepiness, and eventually death.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which provides numerous online safety information and courses, on a variety of topics including fire safety, encourages everyone to have an escape route and plan prepared ahead of time and to practice it twice a year.

Additionally here are some pre-fire safety tips:

  • If at all possible find two ways out of a room or apartment. At the very least locate two ways out of your townhouse or apartment building. Also NEVER use the elevator to exit in case of a fire.
  • If the primary way is blocked by fire or smoke, you will need a second way out. If you are in a townhouse or on the first or second story of your apartment building, a secondary route might be a window onto a neighboring roof or a collapsible ladder for escape from upper story windows.
  • If you are in a townhouse or on the first or second floor of an apartment building, and decide to purchase a collapsible ladder, make sure it is one which has been evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratory (UL).
  • Make sure that windows are not stuck
  • Practice feeling your way out of your apartment in the dark or with your eyes closed.

Note: If you are in one of the apartment buildings, memorize how many doors you are away from the exit stairs. If there was really a fire you can feel your way along the hallway

What to do during a fire...

If there is a fire in your townhouse, room, or apartment, or in your building, it is important for you to get out fast, but safely. When the smoke detector alarm or building fire alarm sounds, it is important that you evacuate out of the building immediately. You may have only seconds to escape safely.

  • Remember do not use the elevators. Use the stairs.
  • If there is smoke blocking your door or first way out, use your second way out.
  • Smoke is toxic. If you must escape through smoke, get low and go under the smoke to your way out.
  • Before opening a door, feel the doorknob and door. If either is hot, leave the door closed and use your second way out.
    Use the back of your hand to check the doorknob or door for heat. This will help prevent you inadvertently grabbing anything on the door, which might be intensely hot, and burning yourself.
  • If there is smoke coming around the door, leave the door closed and use your second way out.
  • If you open a door, open it slowly. Be ready to shut it quickly if heavy smoke or fire is present.
  • If you can't get to someone needing assistance, leave the townhouse or building at once, and call 9-1-1 or the fire department. Tell the emergency operator where the person is located.
  • If pets are trapped inside your home, tell firefighters right away.
  • If you can't get out, close the door and cover vents and cracks around doors with cloth or tape to keep smoke out. Call 9-1-1 or your fire department. Say where you are and signal for help at the window with a light-colored cloth or a flashlight.
  • If your clothes catch fire, stop, drop, and roll –
    Stop immediately, Drop to the ground, and cover your face with your hands. Roll over and over or back and forth until the fire is out.
    If you or someone else cannot stop, drop, and roll, smother the flames with a blanket or towel. Use cool water to treat the burn immediately for 3 to 5 minutes. Cover with a clean, dry cloth. Get medical help right away by calling 9-1-1 or the fire department.

Fire prevention...

The majority of 'home' fires occur in the kitchen, and are the leading cause of injury from fires. Residential fires have other causes such as smoldering ashes from smoking in your room or apartment, or placing heating elements too close to furniture or other combustible materials. Fires such as these, can be particularly dangerous because they may smolder for a long period before being discovered by sleeping residents.

Residential fires are preventable! Here are some important tips for fire prevention:


  • Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove.
  • Wear short, close-fitting or tightly rolled sleeves when cooking.
  • Do not cook if you are sleepy, have been drinking alcohol, or have taken medicine that makes you drowsy.
  • Keep children away from cooking areas by enforcing a "kid-free zone" of 3 feet around the stove.

Additionally, if you are cooking, and the grease in the pan catches fire, do not pour water onto the grease fire, or attempt to move the pan.

  1. Grab an oven mitt, then using the mitt, place a lid over the flaming grease in the pan, and turn off the burner.
  2. This will remove the oxygen from the fire and help it to extinguish.
  3. If the fire does not go out immediately, or the flames have spread onto any other objects near the stove, leave the apartment immediately and call 911.


  • Remember smoking is never allowed in our buildings! Smoking is only allowed in designated smoking areas. If you have a question of where a designated smoking area is, ask your Resident Assistant (RA)

Electrical and Appliance Safety

  • Frayed wires can cause fires. Replace all worn, old or damaged appliance cords immediately and do not run cords under rugs or furniture.
  • Buy electrical products evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
  • If an appliance has a three-prong plug, use it only in a three-slot outlet. Never force it to fit into a two-slot outlet or extension cord.
  • Use electrical extension cords wisely; never overload extension cords or wall sockets.
  • Immediately shut off, light switches that are hot to the touch and lights that flicker. Report these at once to the Service Desk (415-405-0579)

Portable Space Heaters

  • Keep combustible objects at least three feet away from portable heating devices.
  • Buy only heaters evaluated by a nationally recognized laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
  • Portable heaters must have a thermostat control mechanism, and will switch off automatically if the heater falls over.
  • Remember: Kerosene or fuel heaters are not allowed in Housing townhouses or apartment buildings.

More Prevention Tips

  • Avoid using lighted candles. Also remember candles are not allowed in our residential community
  • Never use the range or oven to heat your home.
  • Replace mattresses made before the 2007 Federal Mattress Flammability Standard. Mattresses made since then are required by law to be safer.
  • Keep combustible and flammable liquids away from heat sources.

For more information on fire safety, the following resources are available:
FEMA's U.S. Fire Administration:

The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA):

Additionally for more information on fire safety and emergency preparedness; Emergency Notification System; CPR and First Aid; crime reports; and safety education, at SFSU, please check out

*All information pertaining to fire safety was either adapted, worded, or resourced from:
The Federal Emergency Management Agency:; U.S. Fire Administration:; or The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA):

*Additionally all graphics, except for the Residential Life logo, are clip art from Microsoft:

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