At the beginning of the summer, I moved into my very first apartment. While it was exciting, it was also really nerve-wracking to move to a brand new city with a group of strangers.
Within the first couple of days, we realized that there were a lot more problems with our new apartment than we had initially thought. There were broken lights throughout the rooms, the garbage disposal did not work and the previous tenants had left the kitchen cabinets a sticky mess.
In the fall, I’ll be moving into another new apartment building that is over a hundred years old, and although it has been renovated, the structure still holds many hidden dangers. After my first apartment experience, I realized there were a lot of hidden dangers that I’d never considered before. With an older building, there are a lot more risks.
Although I like to think of myself as the person who is prepared for any situation, my time with the Red Cross has made me even more cautious of my home’s safety.
Here are some tips for staying safe in your first apartment:
Before You Sign the Lease:
- Check all the cabinets and doors. Aside from checking the hinges, this is also a good way to see if there may be any rodents hiding in cabinets.
- Check the plumbing and faucets for water pressure, leaks and rust.
- Check the lighting and electrical sockets to make sure they aren’t loose, exposed or not working.
- Check out the neighborhood at night and on the weekends to see what type of activity occurs.
- Try to meet your potential neighbors. It’s always good to know what type of people you’ll be living next to.
- Check when heating systems have been inspected to ensure that air ducts allow the heat to escape safely.
On Move-In Day:
- Map out your evacuation route(s) in case of an emergency.
- Check how old the smoke alarms are and when they were last tested. If you need new ones, you can contact your local Red Cross chapter to request a free smoke alarm installation.
- Figure out the safest place to go in case of a natural emergency such as a hurricane or tornado.
- Decorate with disasters in mind. In case of an earthquake, be careful about where you hang and place heavier objects like picture frames, decorative pieces, and even lamps.
- Assess any fire hazards. Keep candles three feet away from anything flammable and avoid putting wires under rugs.
- Be prepared for any emergency and have an escape plan and disaster kit ready to go. For what to include in your disaster kit check out this great list.
If You’re Living Alone:
- Protect your valuables and yourself by investing in a security system. If you can’t have an alarm, there are other ways to protect yourself, including security bars.
- Get any possible security risks, like easily opened doors and windows, fixed immediately.
- Close the curtains if you’re not home. This is an easy way to keep anyone outside from seeing your belongings and if you’re not home.
- Don’t make it obvious you’re living alone.
- Get renter’s insurance to protect yourself in case of an emergency, like a fire or flood.
While You’re Living There:
- If you add people to your household, keep your emergency preparedness kit updated with important documents, prescriptions and enough food/water.
- Make sure you have a functioning and up-to-date fire extinguisher that you know how to use.
- Pay attention to when your smoke alarms need new batteries or when they need to be replaced. You should turn and test twice a year near clock changes for daylight savings time.
- Pay close attention when you’re using flammable objects like fireplaces and space heaters.
- If you live on a higher floor, keep a collapsible ladder nearby in case of a fire. You can buy ladders like these at home improvement stores and keep one near your exit window.
Red Cross Home Fire Campaign
In an ongoing effort to reduce death and injury from home fires, the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign is hosting a series of installation and fire safety events across the country. Red Cross volunteers, along with fire departments and other partners, canvass high-risk neighborhoods, installing free smoke alarms, replacing batteries in existing alarms and helping families create escape plans. Since 2014, the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign has saved at least 258 lives and installed more than more than 886,000 smoke alarms in cities and towns across the United States.
Learn how you can help us Sound the Alarm to #EndHomeFires this fall.