Journal of Housing & Community Development

Commissioners Corner: Mitigating Fire Damage

December 11, 2020

As property owners and managers of buildings and homes in scattered-sites or other housing authority properties, it is important to identify and control conditions that may increase chances for fire damage loss, or other losses that drastically interrupt business operation. These types of losses destroy properties and may cause expenses and even losses for residents. Fire damage can also render units uninhabitable for long periods of time.  

Here are a few important considerations: 

Smoke Detectors and Sprinkler Systems 

Although smoke detectors do not extinguish fires, they do provide early warning that may allow escape from buildings. Like testing and inspection of extinguishers, it is just as important to test smoke detectors. It is necessary that they have been laboratory tested and meet certain safety and performance standards. All smoke detectors must be installed according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. The leading cause of smoke detector failure is missing or dead batteries. For battery-operated units, you should test and replace batteries on a regular basis. 

Some detectors may be powered by the building’s electrical system and may have a back-up battery. These units should also be tested for proper use. A helpful hint: when you reset your clock to and from daylight-savings, that should be your signal to replace batteries and inspect detectors. Make it a rule-of-thumb. 

Fire Extinguishers 

Areas of concern and protection should be evaluated for the correct type, size, and number of fire extinguishers. These are classified by the types and sizes of fires they extinguish:  

  • ordinary combustibles such as wood, paper, cloth, and some plastics, flammable liquids,  
    energized electrical equipment,  
    combustible metal fires,  
    commercial cooking related fires. 

There are also clean agent fire extinguishers for protecting electronic items such as computers, phone system equipment and some mechanical equipment. Contact your nearest fire protection equipment supplier or fire department, to assure that you have the protection you need. Agencies should conduct self-inspection of protection equipment, checking periodically to verify extinguishers are operational. 

Author’s Bio: Thomas Jefferson is a Commissioner of Fargo Housing. He has had 16 years of experience as a firefighter with the Air Force and 31 years of experience as an insurance agent. 

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