Whether you’re a landlord or a tenant of an apartment, safety should be your top priority. In 2015 there were 95,000 reported apartment structure fires in the United States, resulting in over 400 civilian deaths and over 3,000 civilian injuries.
Fortunately, most landlords want to follow the proper codes to protect their properties and their tenants. But deciphering the laws and fire codes for apartment buildings and condos can be challenging. One frequently asked question we receive here at FireProTec is, “Are Vermont apartments required to have fire extinguishers?” We’re here to make the requirements simple to understand.
How do Vermont apartment fire codes work?
One reason people struggle to understand fire protection requirements for apartment buildings is because of the way the Vermont Fire & Building Safety Code is set up. Instead of spelling out the requirements, state codes often reference standards from other authoritative organizations, such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
While this makes it easier for the states to maintain their codes and regulations, it can make it more difficult for people to find the answers they are looking for. For instance, the Vermont Fire & Building Code says that “portable fire extinguishers shall be located, installed, inspected and maintained in accordance with NFPA 1 section 13.6.”
Vermont Apartment Fire Extinguisher Requirements
In simple terms: apartment buildings in Vermont are required to provide portable fire extinguishers. But whether or not they need to provide extinguishers in individual units depends on a few factors. We’ll explain below.
Landlords and residential property owners, take note: portable fire extinguishers are required in any occupancy that meets the following descriptions:
- Health care occupancies
- Lodging and rooming houses
- Residential board and care occupancies
These descriptions are according to NFPA 1 section 13.6, which defines general requirements for portable fire extinguishers. The same section also states that, specifically in apartment buildings, “portable fire extinguishers shall be permitted to be located at exterior locations or interior locations so that all portions of the buildings are within 75 feet (22.8m) of travel distance to an extinguishing unit.”
Basically, you’re covered as long as your extinguishers are within 75 feet of each other. The code doesn’t necessarily state that extinguishers must be placed in individual units. But when you consider the size of a standard apartment unit, it’s easy to deduce that, to comply with the 75-feet rule, you’ll need to provide an extinguisher to each resident within their individual apartment.
When you do place extinguishers in each unit, keep in mind this additional piece of the Vermont fire code: “Portable fire extinguishers inside individual apartment or condo units shall be permitted to be 2-1/2 pound dry chemical capacity.” (NFPA 1 section 13:6)
Safety and Protection Beyond the Codes
The code may specify that portable extinguishers need to be placed within a certain distance of each other, but providing every resident with in-unit extinguishers is a matter of life safety, not merely compliance.
If a fire breaks out in an apartment or condo unit, the tenant’s access to a fire extinguisher should be as quick and easy as possible. Every second a fire burns is critical. The only way for an untrained individual to successfully fight a fire before it gets out of control is to catch it in the incipient stage. The only way to ensure that this is possible for your tenants is to provide a portable fire extinguisher within each unit.
Fire Extinguisher Inspection and Maintenance Requirements for Apartments
Your building’s portable fire extinguishers need to be inspected once a year by a trained and certified professional. Contact a fire protection company to set up annual maintenance and inspection to ensure that the fire extinguishers are always operational and in proper working order.
Whose responsibility is it to make sure these inspections happen? The NFPA standard is as follows: “The owner or designated agent or occupant of a property in which fire extinguishers are located shall be responsible for inspection, maintenance, and recharging.” (NFPA 1, section 188.8.131.52.1)
That may be a little ambiguous, but at the end of the day, if you’re a landlord, this is your property. Setting up an annually-recurring inspection with a fire protection company is simple, and helps ensure that your property—and the lives of your occupants—stay safe. You also need to inspect your other life safety equipment, such as your emergency lighting. Let a professional handle these tests for peace of mind and optimal protection.