Thursday, March 31, 2011

Staying Safe In Your Place

Smoke Detectors
Smoke detectors are a must. Many city and county laws state that detectors need to be maintained by the landlord; if you don’t know if this is the law in your area, call your local fire marshal and find out. If detectors are required and your landlord is not doing so, give him/her a firm but polite reminder. If that doesn’t work, you’ll need to send a certified letter informing him/her that you are aware of the law and that you will be ensuring that the law is enforced. There should be a smoke detector in each room, especially bedrooms. However, it is your job to maintain the detectors inside your apartment. Check the batteries regularly and make sure it is installed correctly. 

In the event of a fire, you should make sure that you know what the emergency evacuation route is in your building. If you don’t live on the first floor, find out where the nearest stairwell is and practice an emergency evacuation drill with your family or roommate.

Carbon Monoxide Detectors
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, carbon monoxide poisoning is the leading cause of accidental poisoning death in the United States. An odorless, tasteless, invisible gas, carbon monoxide can only be found with a detector. Depending on the law in your area, your building may or may not be required to provide these for your apartment. Regardless, this is another detector that you should definitely invest in. Test the alarm to be sure it is loud enough to wake you and be heard from other rooms. If your landlord has installed one or more, test and check their installation just as you would with smoke detectors.

Unwanted Critters
Mice, roaches and ants are probably not your ideal roommates. Many building codes require a monthly visit from a preventative exterminator to keep out vermin, so check with the code commissioner and then enforce this rule with your landlord. When you first move in, look for droppings (yuck) and signs of previous pets—fleas are also considered vermin. The landlord is always responsible for clearing out vermin before you move in, but after that, it is your job to keep the apartment clean and do regular checks for infestations.

Other Lurking Hazards
Before you move in, your landlord should provide you with a list of any potential safety issues.

The federal government mandated in 1996 that property managers must inform tenants if lead based paint was used in the building. This type of paint was used in buildings as recently as 20 years ago and it is the leading cause of potential harm to children in urban areas. This paint is most dangerous when it chips and creates dust that can be inhaled. If you suspect that your apartment contains lead based paint, inform your landlord and allow the legal amount of time for removal.