Published on: Sunday, November 4, 2018 News

High-Rise Living … Being Prepared

By Claudine Schweber, Co-Chair, Emergency Preparedness Committee

What do you call someone who lives on the 12th floor and gets up at 5 a.m. each day? A high-riser. All kidding aside, what makes a building a high-rise? That’s the designation for buildings with seven floors or more. According to the U.S. the National Fire Protection Association, a high-rise building is higher than 75 feet (23 meters) or about 7 stories (

Do you live on the 8th floor of a building or know someone who does? What would you do if there’s a fire? Where would you go if you needed to get out of the apartment or if you are ill and need to call for help? Do you have flashlights nearby in case the electricity is out? NOTE: Most firetruck ladders only reach to the 7th floor.

Basic safety

  • Whether you just moved in or have lived in a high-rise for years, make sure you have and read the emergency plan for your building.
  • Learn about your building’s safety features, including smoke alarms, sprinklers, voice communication, and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Identify all the exits near your apartment, since the one closest to you may be blocked. Make sure you can open them. Find the special fire doors.
  • Know the evacuation plan. If you will need help, tell management in advance. Plan and practice two ways out of the building. Get on the stay-in-place list if you are not mobile.
  • In cases of evacuation, go outside away from the building. Do not return until the firefighters say it’s ok. If you think someone is still inside, tell the firefighters or other emergency personnel.
  • Stay away from windows, glass, exterior walls, or things that might fall, such as file cabinets or book shelves.
  • Have emergency contact and medical information posted in plain sight.
  • Don’t use the elevators!

Fire safety

  • Unattended cooking is the #1 cause of home fires. Surprised? Stay in the cooking area until you’ve turned the heat off completely. If a fire does start, get out, close the door, and call 911.
  • If you need to test heated doors, use the back-of-hand technique. Instead of touching a door with your palm, gently use the back of your hand to test for heat.
  • Check if your apartment has sprinklers. New building codes require all residential buildings above 100 feet to have working sprinklers by 2019.
  • “Close before you doze.” Keep bedroom doors closed when you are inside. This could prevent smoke from entering the room and give you time to call 911.
  • When calling 911, be sure to clearly give the apartment number. If you cannot get out, make sure to tell the 911 operator immediately.

If you cannot evacuate, go to a window if possible, wave a white sheet/towel to alert the firefighters. If you can open the window a bit, hang the white item on the window sill, and close the window. Do not keep window open since that may feed the fire. Thank you to Adam Bearne of the Takoma Park Volunteer Fire Department and Jacqueline Davison at Victory Tower for your help with this article. And to the entire TPVFD for always being ready!

Join EPC on WOWD radio for Dear Bea(trice) Prepared at 1 p.m. on the first Sunday of each month.

This article appeared in the November 2018 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.