Fire Extinguishers: Are They Required?

Whether or not your landlord is required to provide portable fire extinguishers typically depends on your state and local Fire Codes. However, determining exactly what’s required for your building can be complicated.

Fire Extinguisher

Fire Prevention in Your Building

More extensive fire protection systems, such as sprinkler systems, may also be required. Often, when such building-wide fire suppression systems are required, such requirements may be waived for existing buildings or kick in only when renovations occur. Thus, it may not be immediately obvious what type of fire prevention system or equipment is required for a particular building.

It’s common for portable fire extinguishers to be required on each floor of an apartment building.  They may be required in additional areas, as well, if those areas fall within categories designated higher risk by applicable codes. When extinguishers are mandated, the regulations are usually very specific, addressing both location and the size / type of fire extinguisher required.

Different classes of fire extinguishers are designed for different types of fires and use in different settings.  For example, a Class A extinguisher is meant to combat burning paper, fabric, etc. But, if you’re dealing with an electrical fire, a Class C extinguisher may be required.

Fire Prevention in Individual Apartments

Landlords are typically not required to provide portable fire extinguishers within individual units. Generally, the key fire protection measure required in individual apartments is one or more smoke detectors. Codes vary regarding the number and placement of these devices.

If your landlord isn’t required to provide a portable fire extinguisher and opts not to do so, you may want to consider purchasing your own fire extinguisher. A 2002 study of more than 2,000 fire incidents revealed that portable fire extinguishers had successfully extinguished more than 80% of those fires. A portable extinguisher kept close at hand can control a fire before it spreads, minimizing both damage and risk to human life.

Choosing and Maintaining Your Fire Extinguisher

If you choose to purchase a fire extinguisher for your apartment, take time to educate yourself. Make sure to choose the most appropriate type, or to obtain a multi-purpose extinguisher, and to understand the circumstances in which the extinguisher is appropriate. You’ll also want to make sure that you know how to operate the fire extinguisher, and that you know how to keep it in good repair.  The last thing you want is to discover in an emergency situation that your fire extinguisher isn’t operating properly or was not designed for the type of fire you’re fighting.