Town Talk: Fire codes are for the safety of all

Town Talk

While you may be aware of fire safety standards when constructing or remodeling a home, owners of residential rental properties are also required to follow state and local fire safety codes. The City of New Ulm adopted an ordinance in 2010, requiring residential rental properties to be registered annually and inspected every two years by the Fire Chief, to ensure fire safety codes are being followed.

When inspecting a residential rental property, some of the items inspected include checking if the electrical service is properly installed and functional; if extension cords are being used properly; proper egress in sleeping rooms; if smoke detectors are present on every level and in good working condition; if there are CO detectors within 10′ of bedrooms and in good working condition; if appliances are working and maintained; if there is accumulation or storage of combustible waste materials; proper hardware/locking devices; proper separation between the house and the garage; visible 4″ building/ house numbers; properly vented clothes dryer and fire extinguishers that are properly tested, tagged and mounted.

Furthermore, apartment buildings have many additional fire codes that are inspected such as the alarm pull stations; proper hardware/locks on egress doors; proper handrails; proper use of extension cords; working exit lights; sprinkler systems; clear exits; fire rated doors; mechanical room storage, and many other items. All to ensure the safety of the residents.

Rarely is an inspection completed without a single violation. However, if the violations are corrected within the specified time-period (usually 7-90 days), there is no further action. The Fire Chief can either reinspect the property or owners can return a signed certificate, verifying the violations have been corrected. The goal of an inspection is to bring the residence up to code, so it is safe for the residents.

Even though these inspections are completed on residential rental properties, the same fire codes essentially apply to all residential homes. Do you have smoke detectors installed and in working order? Do you use extension cords as permanent wiring? Do your sleeping rooms have proper egress? Is there accumulation of combustibles in your home? These are all items that could prevent you or your family from escaping a fire, but can easily be corrected to bring your home up to code and safe for all.

One of the most common life-threatening violations is the lack of working smoke detectors. The Red Cross is currently working to reduce death and injury from home fires by 25% by 2020 with their Home Fire Campaign. To request a free smoke alarm installation, call (612) 460-3674, text “ALARM” to (844) 811-0100 or visit www.getasmokealarm.org. It’s also important to remember to change the batteries in your smoke detectors every six months. With daylight savings this weekend, it is an ideal time to change the batteries in your smoke and CO detectors.

Whether you live in a rental property, your own home or an apartment, fire codes are meant to safeguard life and property. Be proactive and ensure your home is safe for all.

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Editor’s Note: The City of New Ulm presents a weekly column highlighting activities in different departments in the city government. Once a month the city will answer questions from readers. Questions on New Ulm city issues can be sent to comments@ci.new-ulm.mn.us.

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