Multi-family dwellings are just as the words say, dwellings or buildings where multiple families live. The most common are apartment buildings. Most of us...

Multi-family dwellings are just as the words say, dwellings or buildings where multiple families live. The most common are apartment buildings. Most of us have lived in this setting, at one point in our lives, with only a wall or floor separating us from our neighbors. It is the close proximity of apartment living, where the actions and habits of our neighbor affect our lives, either directly or indirectly. My purpose here is to address fires or incidents that could cause you to be displaced.

I have always said that when you live in a multi-family setting, you are not only affected by the “you factor,” but also by the “they factor.” In other words, your actions and the actions of others in your building will affect you. Let me use two recent incidents in Chesterfield County as my examples.

The first involved a dryer fire in an apartment. The apartment was protected by a sprinkler system, which either extinguished the fire or kept it in check until firefighters arrived. The greatest damage in this incident was caused by water and affected two apartments.

The second incident involved an overturned floor lamp in a closet, which caused heat, fire and smoke damage to the fire apartment and smoke damage to an adjacent apartment. In both cases, neighbors were affected and possibly even displaced because of someone else’s problem, mistake or action. Fortunately, no one was injured in either of these incidents.

Let me take a moment, in the middle of this article, to state a necessity of apartment living; you must acquire renter’s insurance. Many of the newer apartment complexes have this in their lease agreement, that renter’s must have renter’s insurance. Of all that is not affordable, renter’s insurance is. Keep in mind; your possessions are indirectly in the hands of everyone that lives in your building. I am not quite sure how this math works, but take the fact that 3.4 out of every 10 fires are caused by unattended cooking. You live in a three-story garden style apartment where there are four apartments per floor. There are twelve apartments or families living in your building. With no facts to back it up at this moment, I see 3.4 hypothetically becoming 4 or 5 out of every 10. You must understand that renter’s insurance is something that you must have.

Apartment living offers the ability to call maintenance when something breaks down or goes wrong, the problem is time from making the call until repairs occur. The landlord or property manager is ultimately responsible, but you hold some of the responsibility as well. If you smell the odorant that is added to propane or natural gas in your apartment and you know that it is coming from your stove, then you need to shut the gas off to your stove. Depending on the extent of the leak, 9-1-1 may need to be called and the fire department respond, for the purpose of ventilation. In some cases, cutting the gas off and opening doors and windows may be sufficient. On a different note, you want to make sure that your smoke alarms are tested monthly. Apartment maintenance probably does this, but my point is that I would think that you would want to know that your smoke alarms work, for your own safety and peace of mind.

Apartment living is a way of life for many. Just as living in a college dormitory or owning a condominium at the beach, you will be close to and affected by your neighbors, as well as the fact that they are affected by you. Fire safety is always important, but becomes even more important when it could affect the lives of so many others. It may mean cleaning the lint screen in your dryer or making sure that the vent hose does not get blocked, to making sure that you blow out candles when you leave a room. Whatever the case, do your part!