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Fire safety tips for condo dwellers

by Jillian CariolaPublished: February 20, 2017Updated: June 20, 2017

To avoid the perils of a fire while living in a condo, exercising caution and having an effective escape plan is a must.

Fire safety tips for condo dwellers MyProperty Philippines burning building fireman rescue

By virtue of Proclamation No. 115-A, s. 1966, March has been declared as Fire Prevention Month. Aside from being one of the hottest months of the year in the Philippines, March has also been observed to have one of the highest numbers of fire incidents in a year. In fact, in 2015, 16.7 percent out of a total of 17,138 fires nationwide happened in March. Fires can occur any time–even up to an average of nine times a day, according to the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP)–so it is absolutely necessary to practice preventive measures all year round.

The Fire Code of the Philippines outlines several rules that buildings such as condominiums should implement prior to being granted permission to operate. Granted that your condo building has been issued a Fire Safety Inspection Certificate by the city/municipal fire marshal, it means that the building owner has already put in place several safety measures, such as an automatic sprinkler system, sufficient fire exits, firewalls, and fire extinguishers in common areas. As a condo unit owner, however, there are additional guidelines that you can follow for your safety and that of your loved ones.


One of the ways you can best protect yourself and your family from fire is to be mindful of the unit you buy or rent, so keep these guidelines in mind.

1. Pick a condo unit that is close to the ground floor for a quicker escape. It would also be easier to be rescued from a lower floor since firefighters’ ladders can only extend to a certain height.

2. A view of the pool might be nice, but firetrucks would have easier access to you if your unit is facing a main road.

3. Get a professional to inspect your unit to make sure it is up to code and be sure to comply with their safety pointers.

4. Be sure that the condo building is located in an area where roads are wide and unobstructed so that firetrucks will get to it faster.


As unfortunate as fires can be, they can happen to anyone. But the good news is that there are measures you can take to prepare yourself for such an event.

1. Learn your condo’s fire exits and plans of escape
Condos are designed to have a sufficient number of emergency exits to ensure that all residents can leave the building quickly and with as little trouble as possible, and these are shown on a map also displayed on each floor. Study the map carefully; locate your unit to determine your proximity to the exit, as well as how easily or difficult it would be to navigate the path should there be a blackout.

Let the building’s management know of anything that may impede the residents’ safe passage, such as blockages placed in front of fire escapes and burned-out lightbulbs in stairwells.

In your unit, make sure windows are not rusted or painted shut in case you need to use them as an escape route. Check how easily you will be able to remove the air conditioning from its hole in the window as you can escape through this hole as well. Also, place a list of emergency contacts next to the phone. As of August 2016, the emergency hotline for the Philippines is 911, and the direct lines for the BFP are 426-0219, 426-3812, and 426-0246. 

2. Keep a fire extinguisher in your unit
According to the Fire Code, your condo building should be equipped with fire extinguishers even if the building already has automatic sprinklers, standpipe, or hose.  There should be one portable fire extinguisher placed in every 200 square meters of open space. If that space is separated in two, each section should have its own fire extinguisher.

Fire safety tips for condo dwellers MyProperty Philippines fire extinguisher
Photo via Shutterstock

To ensure the safety of your own unit, make sure that you have your own fire extinguisher, and that everyone at home knows how to use it. Keep in mind that there are different fire extinguishers for every cause of fire:

Type A – Light materials like paper, plastic, wood, and leaves
Type B – Flammable liquids like kerosene, paint, and solvents
Type C – Energized electrical equipment
Type D – Combustible metals
Type K – Cooking fuels and oils

For your unit, get an ABC or ABCD fire extinguisher (firefighters use a special kind of extinguisher – aqueous film-forming foams or AFFF – to put out oil-caused fires). Place it in a location that is easily accessible by everyone in case of an emergency. To use it, remember the acronym PASS:

P – Pull the pin
A – Aim for the base of the fire
S – Squeeze the lever
S – Sweep the fire extinguisher's hose from side to side

3. Get a smoke detector
A smoke detector will alert you of a fire even if you are not in the room by emitting a sound as soon as it senses smoke. There are three main types you can choose from for your condo:

a. Ionization alarms – triggers an alarm when smoke particles disturb the electric current within the alarm.
b. Photoelectric alarms – triggers an alarm when smoke particles diffract a strobe light within the alarm onto a sensor.
c. Dual-sensor alarm – combines the qualities of an ionization alarm and a photoelectric alarm.

See to it that the alarm is working properly by pressing the “Test” button, or by lighting matches and holding them a few feet below the alarm to see if the detector is working well.

Also, check the batteries regularly to make sure that the unit is still functioning properly. It is recommended that alarms be tested at least once a month, and to change its batteries at least twice a year. Ideally, you should install more than one smoke alarm: one for the kitchen, and one for each bedroom. If your condo has more than one level, there should be at least one alarm per level.

Fire safety tips for condo dwellers MyProperty Philippines smoke detector fire alarm
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When a fire breaks out, call 911. Do not assume that someone else has already done so. Give your name and the exact address of the condo. Next, proceed to the nearest escape route and concentrate on leaving as quickly as you can.

1. The BFP says you only have two minutes before a room is completely engulfed in flames, so your first priority is to get your loved ones and yourself out of the unit, through the fire exit and outside the building. During a fire, every second counts, so forget about looking for your valuables as they will only slow you down.

2. If the fire is contained in one room, try to close the door as you escape. This will help contain the smoke and delay the spread of flames.

3. According to the BFP, suffocation is the major cause of casualties in a fire. Because smoke gathers at the ceiling, stay close to the ground and escape the unit and building by crawling. If possible, do so while covering your mouth with a piece of wet cloth.

4. Before opening any doors, feel the door itself and the handle for heat. Do not open it if it is hot as this indicates that the room behind it is burning.

Fire safety tips for condo dwellers MyProperty Philippines emergency evacuation escape
Photo via Shutterstock

5. Avoid using the elevators when escaping; there is a risk of getting trapped if the power goes out.

6. If all exits are blocked by fire, shut yourself in your unit and cover door gaps with damp towels and blankets to keep smoke from getting in. Dial 911 and tell firefighters exactly where you are.

7. Find an area with a window where you can signal for help by yelling or waving a bright cloth and wait to be rescued.

8. If you need fresh air, open a window slightly and breathe through it. Do not break the window as you may need to close it again in case there is smoke outside the building.

9. If you catch fire, running will only fan the flames, making them bigger. Immediately stop, drop to the floor, and roll until the fire is out.

10. Once you are out of the building, do not go back inside until a firefighter declares it safe to do so.


Main image via Shutterstock

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