We have covered several topics on fire escape safety and maintenance so far. Typically, we have focused on what a professional contractor can do to keep your fire escape system safe. However, there are several things that you can do as the homeowner to help maintain your fire escape.
One of the most common issues we encounter is that residents will often use their fire escape as storage or even as an outside living space. All too often do we see residents that have put their grills and furniture on their fire escape. As we have discussed several times in this blog, the purpose of a fire escape is to provide a means of egress in the event of an emergency.
Of course, most people believe that they will not experience an emergency where the fire escape will be needed, and as a result will use this space as extra and use it for a variety of activities, all which will make the fire escape useless in the event of an emergency. In addition to it being unsafe, the most common fine we see levied against homeowners is for the fire escape being cluttered.
Not only do you need to ensure your fire escape is free from clutter, but you must also make sure to leave your fire escape system undecorated. The holiday season is in full swing and all too often do we encounter residents putting decorations on their fire escape. Like we discussed earlier, your fire escape is not to be used for anything other than its intended purpose, as a means for evacuation in the event of an emergency. One of the most common and problematic decorations we see are Christmas lights wrapped around the fire escape, including the moving parts such as the ladder. This ensures that you will not have a working fire escape if you need one.
Winter is on the way which means snow and ice are not far behind. One of the most important parts of maintaining your fire escape and ensuring it is in proper working order will be to keep it free of ice and snow. As we’ve discussed in several previous posts, water is the number one enemy to fire escapes.
When it snows and that snow is left to sit on your fire escape, once the sun hits it, the snow will slowly melt. Then, once the temperature drops at night, that water will refreeze, starting a terrible cycle of melt and refreeze. The melted water will have seeped into any tiny holes or cracks. Once the refreeze occurs, it will expand.
As this process happens repeatedly, those tiny cracks or holes expand, and more and more water will enter. This will cause even more expansion, until it eventually breaks. Clear any snow off your fire escape as soon as you can safely clear it. Be sure to also scrape off any ice. DO NOT USE SALT. Due to the corrosive properties of salt, if you use salt to melt any snow or ice, your fire escape system will be structurally compromised.