Apartment Fire Safety March 2022

City of Seattle Fire Department

Prepare an apartment fire evacuation plan

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The Seattle Fire Department responded to two apartment building fires recently – one in a three-story building and one in a high-rise building. In both fires, residents fled their apartments or sheltered in place for safety.

Do you know what to do when the fire alarm in your apartment building sounds?

For people who live in apartments or condominiums, the sound of the building fire alarm can be jolting and frightening. You may not know if there is an actual fire in the building or if your neighbor burned some toast and has left the front door open. Regardless, it’s important to take every alarm seriously and begin your escape plan quickly.

Do I stay inside my apartment or leave the building? That depends. For people able to use stairs, you have a choice. You may evacuate using the stairs or seek shelter inside of an apartment.

Here are a few tips to help you be better prepared for a building fire alarm.

If you can evacuate, do so immediately.

  1. Leave your apartment.
  2. Close the door as you go.
  3. Use the stairs, not the elevator, to leave the building.
  4. Go to your building’s outside meeting place. Never wait on a balcony, building courtyard or rooftop.
  5. Wait for instructions. Do not re-enter the building until given permission.

Without delaying your escape, you may need to quickly grab a warm coat, phone, keys, ID, and anything you may need for the next couple of hours as you wait outside until it’s safe to re-enter the building. The Fire Department will call for a public bus for temporary shelter but in cold temperatures, you may need a warm coat until shelter is set upConsider having a go-to kit set up before an actual fire emergency which contains a few essential items.

For people who can’t use stairs or can’t access a stairwell because of smoke in the hallway, shelter in place:

  1. Stay inside your apartment.
  2. Keep your doors and windows closed.
  3. Place a towel or clothing at the base of the door to keep smoke from entering.
  4. Stay inside near a large window and do not wait inside bathrooms or outside on decks.
  5. Call 911 if smoke comes into your apartment.

Make a plan before the next fire alarm sounds. Your plan should include all members of the household.

Watch our latest Apartment Fire Evacuation video (in English and American Sign Language)

Reducing "false" alarms in apartment buildings

The Seattle Fire Department responds to over 5,000 “false” alarms every year and these preventable fire alarms make up approximately one-third of all the calls received by the Seattle Fire Department. Preventable alarms in multi-residential buildings are often caused by cooking, smoking and steam. Preventable alarms take first responders and fire engines out of service for other emergency calls. To learn more about false alarms and how to reduce them, read this Client Assistance Memo from the Seattle Fire Department.

Contact us for fire safety presentations

The Seattle Fire Department's Education and Outreach team is now conducting in-person fire safety presentations. Send us an email for more information.