Fire and Life Safety in Residences

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," goes the old saying. In this spirit the Sitka Building Department offers the following safety checklist for homeowners who may wish to self evaluate their homes or living places for common life safety hazards.

Is your heating furnace and/or wood stove properly installed?

Improperly installed heating plants are a common source of fires. Check for insufficient clearance from the fire box or stack to combustible surfaces. Careful adherence to manufacturers installation instructions is the best precaution a homeowner can take. Improperly operating heaters may produce carbon monoxide. A carbon monoxide detector, though not legally required, is cheap insurance against this odorless and deadly by product of incomplete combustion.

Is fire-resistive construction intact?

The two common places for fire resistive construction in residences are the two places where fires commonly start: in boiler / furnace rooms and in garages. There should be no breaks or holes in the sheetrock, or other openings where flames could enter the framing of the house. Doors to these areas should be self-closing and latch securely.

Do all sleeping rooms and adjacent hallways have working smoke detectors?

Smoke detectors truly do save lives. One of the few code provisions that applies to all buildings regardless of age (i.e. no "grandfathering") is the requirement that all sleeping rooms have smoke detectors. A smoke detector must also be located outside but adjacent to each sleeping area, and each floor must have at least one smoke detector.

Do all sleeping rooms have an egress window, that is, a window a person could escape from in the event of fire?

Does your home have at least one (2A:10BC) 5 pound all-purpose portable fire extinguisher on each floor?

Are all guardrails and handrails in and around your home structurally sound?

The end posts of stair handrail and guardrail runs are points that typically receive heavy stress, and will work loose over time. If made of wood and exposed to the weather, additional weakening may be caused by rot. "Hip check" your railings to test strength.

Is your electrical panel readily accessible?

Are all circuits labeled to allow rapid de-energizing in the event of trouble? Do all outlets, switches, and junction boxes have covers?

Can all exit doors be opened from the inside without a key or special knowledge, and is the exit path well-lit and free of trip hazards?

Upon the request of a tenant or owner, the Building Department will conduct a Fire and Life Safety inspection of a residence.

The Building Department thanks the Sitka Police and Fire Commission for their assistance in the development of this page.