5 Things to Beware if You Live in a High Rise
You may be living sky high, but keep your head grounded when it comes to safety
Living in a high-rise can offer real benefits, such as great views and cushy amenities. But it can also pose some health and safety challenges. Did you ever think about what you’d have to do in the event of a fire, for instance? Or how long the EMTs would have to wait for the elevator in order to get to you in a medical emergency?
If you live in, or are thinking of moving into, a tall building, here are five things to know about life in a high rise.
1. Living on higher floors lowers your odds of surviving a heart attack. The higher you live, the longer it may take for emergency responders to reach you. And seconds count. A recent study of almost 6,000 heart attacks in high-rise residents found that 4.2 percent of people who lived below the third floor survived, compared just 2.6 percent of those on higher floors. On the 16th floor or higher, less than 1 percent lived. And above the 25th floor, there were zero survivors.
Related: Quiz: Are You Heart Smart?
2. You may be further from safety in a fire. Each year, about 15,000 fires break out in high rise-buildings . If your building catches fire, the higher the floor you live on, the more flights of stairs you’ll have to travel down to escape.
It’s best to live in a building that has a full sprinkler system, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends. And know where all exit stairs on your floor are. Count the doors to the nearest stairs ahead of time so you can find your way out even if there’s thick smoke, advises John Drengenberg, consumer safety director for UL. Learn about the building’s emergency communication procedures and evacuation plans, advises the NFPA. For example, if the fire is in another unit, not yours, you may be safer staying in your unit, according to Drengenberg. If a fire breaks out in your apartment and you need to leave, it’s critical to close the door behind you, he notes.
Building managers should designate a place of refuge where disabled, elderly or sick residents who can’t use the stairs can wait for emergency responders.
3. High-rise windows pose a danger to kids and pets. Every year, more than 3,300 kids under 5 end up in the hospital after falling out a window, and about eight die. Most fatal falls happen from heights, usually the third story or above, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. If you have young children in your high-rise home, install hardware to keep your windows from opening more than a few inches, the National Safety Council recommends.
High-rise living can pose a danger to curious pets too, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Cats love to perch in open windows and, if they slip, may not be able to cling to brick or metal. These falls can puncture pets’ lungs, shatter jaws and break other bones, according to the ASPCA. Install screens on your windows and be aware that child window guards won’t protect Fido or Fluffy because pets can squeeze through small openings.
Related: 10 Places to Use Child Safety Locks
4. Elevators get stuck. Get prepared by studying up on a few elevator safety rules. For example, if the elevator stalls between floors, push the alarm or help button or use the intercom to summon help, advises the National Elevator Industry. Never try to climb out of a stalled elevator. Read more about what to do if you’re stuck in an elevator here.
5. You’re more anonymous, which may encourage break-ins. Look for a building with keyed access and video surveillance in common areas and on residential floors. Starting a Neighborhood Watch program on your floor may help keep you and other residents safer.
It’s not all bad, of course. In fact, here’s a big benefit of high-rise living: Living on a higher floor might help you breathe easier. Residents of high-rise buildings may be exposed to less traffic-related air pollution than low-rise dwellers, one study shows. This air pollution has been linked to asthma and other health problems.