October marks the month of national Fire Prevention and Awareness. The risk of serious injury and death from home fires is real. In 2011, 384,000 homes across the country required fire department emergency responses, which claimed the lives of 2,640 and injured 13,350 others. Most victims of fires die from smoke or toxic gases and not from burns. 85% of all US fire deaths in 2009 occurred in homes. Of the home fires that cause death, 40% had no smoke alarms. The main reason that smoke alarms fail to operate during home fires is missing or disconnected batteries.
Landlord Responsibility to Promote Fire Safety
In Washington, as in many states, a landlord of a residential unit must ensure that all units have smoke detection devices. The smoke detection device must be designed, manufactured and installed inside the dwelling unit in conformance with nationally accepted standards and per Washington state rules and regulations promulgated by the director of fire protection. While a tenant must maintain the smoke detector and test/replace batteries periodically, the owner alone is responsible for installation. The landlord must also ensure the smoke detector’s performance whenever a unit becomes vacant and before re-letting it.
A landlord who does not comply with this law is subject to civil penalty and may be liable to any tenant who is injured from smoke or fire due to the lack of a functioning smoke detector.
Keep Your Home Fire Safe
- Cooking Safely: never leave cooking food unattended on the stove. Keep all flammable objects, such as potholders, towels, and clothing, away from flame. Also keep the handles of pots turned in.
- Smoking: try to quit. If you must smoke indoors, never smoke in bed or leave a burning cigarette unattended. Never smoke while drowsy or under the influence of alcohol or medications. Don’t empty hot ashes into a garbage can. Keep ashtrays away from furniture and curtains.
- Staying warm: stay safe. Keep any space heaters three feet away from any flammable objects, including curtains, furniture and bedding.
- Alarms. Install smoke alarms on every floor of your home, including the basement. Install smoke alarms in all sleeping rooms, especially those occupied by a smoker. Test smoke alarms once a moth using the test button. Test and change your batteries every six months.
- Escape plan. Determine a home fire escape plan. Have at least two exits for every room and agree on a meeting place outside with all household members. Practice your escape plan twice a year with everyone in your home.
For more information on fire safety, go to:
For the duties of a landlord and tenant regarding smoke detectors go to:
Learn More About Home Fire Prevention
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