Aside from regular inspections, alarms, fire suppression tools, and emergency planning are crucial components in ensuring the safety of your tenants from a fire. They are in fact, life-saving tools and strategies that can cut potential fire deaths in half.

Alarms & Fire Suppression Tools

Smoke alarms and CO detectors

The importance of having both of these items in constant working order in your rentals cannot be overstated. Working smoke alarms cut home fire deaths in half. (National Fire Protection Association) Carbon monoxide (CO) detectors are also key because of the nature of CO’s properties: CO is often known as the silent killer because it is colorless, odorless, and tasteless.

Alarms should be placed inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the home, including the basement. On levels without bedrooms, alarms should be placed in the living room or den and near stairways. Installing interconnected alarms is recommended by the NFPA because when one alarm sounds, they all sound, alerting the occupants no matter where they are located in the house.

Alarms and detectors should be tested monthly and standard batteries should be changed at least twice a year – Daylight Savings is a good time to do this. Some newer alarms come with five or 10-year batteries, but they still need to be tested regularly. The detectors themselves will also need to be changed out periodically – the typical life of a detector is 10 years. Smoke alarms and CO detectors are often required by city code, so be sure you are following any local guidelines too. Lastly, many insurance policies require working smoke detectors as a “protective safeguard” in order to honor a fire claim, so be sure to review your policy and ask your agent if you have questions.

Fire extinguishers

Fire extinguishers can help put out small fires before they become uncontrollable, so providing them in your rentals is a must. Just be sure to educate your tenants on how to properly use them prior to moving in! There are five classes of extinguishers, but ABC or BC are multi-purpose and can put out a variety of fires, so they may be the best choice for this application.

Fire Extinguisher Classes:


Fire Extinguisher Placement

  1. In the kitchen*
  2. Near sources of heat such as fireplaces, room heaters, or pellet stoves*
  3. Each floor of the home, including the attic and basement
  4. The garage
  5. Bedroom

*Don’t keep the extinguisher right next to the heat source, but a safe distance away.

StoveTop FireStop

This inexpensive fire suppression device can help put out a stove top fire before the cook has time to grab a lid or standard extinguisher. StoveTop FireStop products are positioned above the stove and the flames activate a small fuse on the bottom of the container, which then releases extinguishing powder down onto the stove. There is also a loud “pop” when the container opens which can alert the distracted cook so they can return to the kitchen to turn off the burners. You can learn more about StoveTop FireStop here.

Fire Escape Plans & Practice Drills

You know the floor plan of your property better than anyone. You probably looked at it carefully before your purchase – share what you know with your tenants. Identify two escape routes out of each room, if possible, and advise your tenants to keep these escape routes unblocked when they are considering where to place furniture. They may roll their eyes at your “Safety Sam” ways, but this advice may save their life!

No one expects you to be there to run fire drills for your tenants, but you can lead them to information about fire escape planning for their safety and the safety of your property. The NFPA has all kinds of resources on their website. Click here for their page on Basic Fire Escape Planning.