Putting Out the Fire Staying Safe with Fire Prevention

All it takes is a single spark. Fires can destroy property and destroy lives in a matter of minutes. In 2003, the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) fought more than 27,000 structural fires and the New York City Red Cross responded to an average of eight fires a day, providing care and shelter to victims. Fires can happen anywhere and to anyone. Often, though, these tragedies can be prevented with proper planning, knowledge and a bit of common sense.

Vigilance is key. "Think fire safety at all times," says Robert Bittar, owner of Complete Fire Safety - a fire prevention consultation firm in Brooklyn - and former deputy chief inspector for the FDNY. A little prevention can go a long way.

Spreading the Word

All building managers want to keep their residents safe. The best way to do that? Preventative maintenance and solid communication.

Priority number one should be ensuring that the building is up to code and that all fire detection and suppression equipment is functional. If the building has not been inspected for some time, it may be wise to hire a fire prevention professional to check it out. "We'll look at the fire suppression systems," Bittar says. "We'll make sure no exits are blocked, ensure there's no rubbish blocking the halls, that the exit lights and emergency lights are functioning. If you're missing something, we'll be able to tell you what it is."

The inspection team then will provide a detailed assessment, including suggestions on what information needs to be shared with residents. Professional fire safety inspectors will also inspect sprinkler systems and water flow, both inside and outside the building. Ensuring that these safety measures function properly is the responsibility of the building managers.

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