Is your apartment building a fire risk? Here's how to check

After the recent deadly apartment fires in New York and Philadelphia, you may wonder if the apartment building where you live is safe.

We asked the Houston Fire Department to show us what safety measures renters should look for in an apartment building. 

RELATED: 2-alarm apartment fire sparks up in SW Houston, no injuries reported

The newly built 2111 Austin Apartments in Houston let us in to show you what proper safety features will look like.  

"Look up for a sprinkler system. If it has a sprinkler system, it enhances your chance of survival by 90%," explained Captain Moises De La Cruz with the Houston Fire Department. "Also, having smoke alarms in the building, they’re important to staying safe as well."

He suggests checking that smoke alarms work once a month. 


Additionally, apartments are required to have either a sprinkler system or a fire extinguisher inside the unit. Keep space heaters at least three feet from furniture or fabric. And be sure you can close bedroom doors to block flames and smoke.    

"That really does help increase your chance of survival," said De La Cruz.  

MORE: Families displaced, units damaged after heavy blaze at SE Houston apartment

In the hall outside an apartment, you should have access to a fire extinguisher that is less than ten years old.

"There’s an acronym you want to remember: PASS. It's an acronym for this fire extinguisher," De La Cruz demonstrated for us. "You want to pull the pin, you want to aim, what's on top is the trigger, you want to squeeze and swing left and right."

Know where your exits are, and that the door closes behind you.

"So all that smoke doesn’t get into the stairwell and work like a chimney," he said. "All that smoke will go up as residents exit the building."

RELATED: 1 dead, 1 hospitalized after house fire in southeast Houston

Many apartment buildings have doors in the hallways called fire stops.

"These doors are meant to shut off a particular wing to a building and when the smoke alarm goes off, there’s a mechanism in here that releases the doors," said De La Cruz.

And front doors on apartments that close automatically help block fire from spreading, as well.  


Tenants should practice a fire drill and designate a safe meeting place outside the building.  

To check that a building has been inspected by the Fire Marshall, you can ask the building management, or check the date on the tags on fire extinguishers. If a building lacks safety features, you can notify the manager or Fire Marshall's office.

MORE: More than 100 storage units affected by 4-alarm fire in NW Harris County

For more safety tips from the Houston Fire Department, including an apartment manager checklist, click here.