Multi-family dwelling fire safety

The following information is to give you an awareness of fire safety in your home. This information will help you prevent fires and give guidance on what to do in the event of an actual fire.

A fire at a multi-family dwelling.

Keep in mind that you are not the only person living in the building. Other residents are counting on you to be safety-conscious and prevent fires from ever starting. One small fire can rapidly increase in size and intensity and displace the residents of one unit or the entire building. Poor judgment on your part will affect the lives of many other people. Remember, safety is no accident.

Follow these steps if the fire alarm sounds in your apartment building and remain calm, you are in a fire-resistive building.

If your main door is hot to the touch:

  • Feel the door and doorknob with the back of your hand. Unlock the door but do not open it.
  • Call 911 to report what unit number you are in.
  • Go to the farthest window and open it. Wave a sheet or towel to attract attention and wait for fire department instructions.
  • Your home will provide a safe refuge if the hallway door remains tightly closed to prevent smoke from entering.

If your main door is cool to the touch:

  • Place your foot against the bottom of the door and open carefully.
  • If the hallway is clear, evacuate. It may not appear that you are in immediate danger but you don’t know the circumstances of the situation.
  • Call 911 and report the alarm.
  • If there is smoke in the corridor, follow the same procedure as if the door were hot.

If there is a fire in your unit, follow these steps:

  • Escape if you can do so.
  • Close the door behind you and pull the manual fire alarm near the stairway door.
  • Leave the building using the stairway. Do not use the elevators.
  • Make sure 911 has been called.
  • Go to the front entry and wait for the fire department’s arrival.
  • If your primary exit is blocked by smoke or fire, use your second exit. Wave a sheet or towel to attract attention and wait for fire department instructions.
  • For small fires, fire extinguishers are provided in the corridors.

It is important that 911 be called when an alarm sounds. The fire alarm system might not automatically notify the Minnetonka dispatch center.

When you evacuate the building, do so by the stairway. These enclosures are fire resistive and will provide a place of refuge. Once again, do not use the elevators. If you need assistance evacuating the building consider asking your neighbor. If you are unable to evacuate stay in your apartment and call 911. Give the dispatcher your unit number and the fire department will assist you.

Fire extinguishers

Unless you are 100% sure you can extinguish the fire with a fire extinguisher, do not even attempt to. The main objective is life safety. The fire department does not want people who are not trained in firefighting trying to extinguish fires. If you choose to fight the fire, know your escape route. Don’t let fire get between you and your exit.

Fire safety

Be careful if using candles. Never leave a lit candle unattended and always use a noncombustible candle holder. Use good judgment and maintain a safe clearance between the candle and combustible materials including but not limited to paper, curtains, lamp shades, bedding and furniture.

Careless smoking is one of the leading causes of residential fires. Use a noncombustible ash tray and be sure you have completely extinguished smoking material before discarding. Don’t smoke if you are tired or intoxicated, you might fall asleep.

Electricity can also start fires. The use of multi-plug adapters with no over-current protection is discouraged. Instead use a power strip with over-current protection. Do not overload extension cords either. Overloaded cords will heat up do to electrical resistance and may start a fire. Check cords for damaged or frayed wiring and do not run them underneath carpet or rugs. Over time friction can cause the insulation to degrade, exposing the bare wires.

Cooking fires do happen. Keep an eye on what you’re cooking. Make sure you set a timer to alert you that food is done. Don’t cook if you are tired or intoxicated: you might fall asleep. If a grease fire starts on the stove, stay calm. The fire is contained within the pan. Always keep the appropriate sized lid near the stove if not in use. The easiest way to extinguish a grease fire is to put a lid on it. By doing so, the fire will use up the remaining oxygen in the pan and extinguish itself. Slide the lid over the pan, turn the burner off, and remove from hot burner but be careful not to spill the hot grease. Never use water because the grease floats. If there is a fire in a microwave or oven keep the door closed. The fire will stay contained until the fire department arrives.

If you like to grill, the following rules must be followed. The Minnesota State Fire Code and the Minnetonka Fire Prevention Code prohibit the use and storage of charcoal and charcoal barbecue grills on apartment and condominium balconies and within 15 feet of any ground floor unit. Listed propane or electric grills can be used on balconies but they must be permanently mounted with an 18 inch clearance on all sides. Keep in mind that building owners or management may be more restrictive and not allow grilling of any type. Do not grill inside your home.

Smoke detectors save lives! Keep your smoke detector in working order. Make sure you test them monthly and replace the batteries every six months.


For more information visit other pages in the fire prevention section or call the Minnetonka Fire Prevention Bureau at 952.939.8339.