Christian Vanasse

By Christian Vanasse

July 19, 2021


4 steps to protecting your apartment buildings from fire

Want to reduce the risk of fire in one of your units that could end up spreading to other parts of the building? Here’s a checklist to help you avoid having to file a real estate property insurance claim and deal with the other consequences of a fire.

1. Install fire prevention equipment in your building and maintain it

If your units have appropriate fire prevention equipment, it’s easier for your tenants to rapidly extinguish any fires that start and avoid significant damage to your building.

  • Install smoke detectors close to the bedrooms and replace them every 10 years.
  • Place an extinguisher in good working order that is easily accessible in each kitchen and ensure that the instructions for use are visible.
  • Have electrical outlets in the bathrooms connected to integrated circuit breakers. If there are electrical outlets on the balconies, they should also be connected to circuit breakers and be covered.


2.   Do a maintenance inspection and verification every 6 months 

Smoke detectors

  • Verify their condition and replace detectors that were painted, in bad condition, older than 10 years or expired.
  • Clean them: Gently vacuum the case. If the case opens, also vacuum the interior.
  • Replace batteries with new ones every 6 months.
  • Verify that they are in good working order: Bring a candle that has just been put out close to the detector to see if the smoke is detected.


Portable fire extinguishers

    • Ensure that fire extinguishers are in place, and there are no obstacles preventing easy access.
    • Verify that they are full by checking the weight.
    • Ensure that there is adequate pressure: The needle should be in the green zone of the pressure gauge.
    • If they are refillable, have them refilled every 6 years or after use.
    • Replace fire extinguishers if they show signs of:
      • Rust
      • Damage or deterioration
      • Leakage
      • Obstructed nozzles
      • Have them verified annually by a professional.


Household appliances

  • Clothes dryers:
    • Inspect the exhaust duct and vacuum it twice a year.
    • Ensure that hot air is being discharged outside.
    • In the winter, check that vent covers are not blocked by ice or snow.
  • Refrigerators:
    • The condenser coil and other mechanisms on the back of the appliance should be periodically cleaned to prevent dust and other deposits from catching fire.

3. Keep your tenants informed on how to prevent fires 

Take the time to give tenants a tour of the entire unit and building, preferably when they move in. It’s an ideal opportunity to give them all required information on fire prevention.

Show them where the emergency exits and fire-fighting equipment are located, and how to operate the equipment (extinguishers, manual alarms, etc.).

Give them a list of things they can do to prevent fires, such as:

  1. Smoke detectors
    Test them monthly by pressing the test button for several seconds.


  1. Kitchen
  • Don’t leave cooking food unattended and turn off the cooking appliance if leaving.
  • Choose a heating element that is smaller than the pot or pan they’re using.
  • Don’t overfill pots to avoid spills.
  • Keep handy a cover that is as large or larger than the width of the pot in order to extinguish any fires that might start.
  • When frying, use thermostat-controlled fryers.
  • Never use water to extinguish burning oil.Find out more


  1. Clothes dryers
  • Clean out the lint filter after each use of the dryer.
  • Never dry stuffed items, or items made of rubber or having come in contact with a flammable substance (oil, fuel, solvent, etc.) in the dryer.
  • Never work the dryer when it’s unattended.
  • Never dry clothes, shoes or rags on a baseboard heater.


  1. Extension cords, cables and electrical outlets
  • Extension cords and cables must never be painted. This can cause the cladding to dry out, making it susceptible to cracking and causing a fire.
  • Never use an extension cord when it is coiled up, cracked or emits heat.
  • Never overload electrical outlets and extension cords.


  1. Hazardous domestic products
  • Inflammable domestic products such as hairspray, rubbing alcohol, fondue fuel, paint or solvents must always be stored away from heat sources.
  • Gas or propane tanks, even if empty, must always be stored outside in a vertical position, out of the reach of children and protected from the sun and any other heat source.Find out more


  1. Seasonal tips
  • In the summer, barbecues and other outdoor appliances that generate heat must be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Check municipal bylaws about these appliances and inform your tenants of them.
  • At Halloween, encourage them to use LED candles as opposed to real candles to illuminate their pumpkins.
  • During the Christmas holidays, ask them to opt for an artificial fire-resistant tree and inspect the lights to make sure they are in good working order before installing them.


4.  Managing smokers

  • Create a space for smokers outside the building and install outdoor, fire-safe ashtrays. This area should not be close to flower beds or potted plants as smokers may be tempted to put out their stubs in them. The mulch and may contain highly flammable material.
  • Put up signs intended for smokers, both inside and outside the building. These signs should indicate the areas where smoking is forbidden, direct smokers to the designated smoking areas, and forbid putting out stubs in the risk areas such as the flower beds surrounding the building.
  • If smoking is permitted in the building, make sure the smokers know the to follow in order to reduce the risks related to smoking products. For example, they should always put out their stubs in stable ashtrays that are designed for that purpose and never light a cigarette when getting ready for bed or feeling tired.

Looking for a landowners insurance?
Find out more about the coverages that we can tailor to your needs.

Find out more
Subscribe to the newsletter