Renters need to look closely at apartment fire safety features

Renters need to look closely at apartment fire safety features

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According to investigators, building D of the Southwood Apartment complex had no firewall and no sprinkler system. According to investigators, building D of the Southwood Apartment complex had no firewall and no sprinkler system.
"I think sprinklers save lives probably better than any other single feature that there is as far as fire prevention," said Beeler. "I think sprinklers save lives probably better than any other single feature that there is as far as fire prevention," said Beeler.

By MIKE KRAFCIK
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The South Knoxville apartment complex building that burnt to the ground Wednesday lacked many important safety features that fire investigators say could have made a difference.

According to investigators, building D of the Southwood Apartment complex had no firewall and no sprinkler system.

The building was constructed in 1968, when fire codes didn't require many modern safety features.

There are lots of apartments around East Tennessee, with different prices for rent and different amenities. But what do they offer when it comes to safety? What should you be looking for and what are property owners required to have?

"Most people looking for apartments are looking for aesthetics and costs. They're not really considering the danger of what might be," said Fire Marshal Danny Beeler.

According to fire marshals, the age and size of the building will determine what features are required for an apartment building.

Current fire codes require that apartment buildings with 16 units in one building have certain safety features like fire walls, monitored alarm systems and sprinkler systems. 

"I think sprinklers save lives probably better than any other single feature that there is as far as fire prevention," said Beeler.

Apartment managers should know what kind of safety features they offer, and they are required to keep an up-to-date maintenance record.

Investigators say that if safety features are updated in older buildings, they can still be safe.

"If they do make changes, re-model then they are required to bring up to current code," said Beeler.

Preston Bowen and his roommate live in a larger South Knoxville apartment complex they consider to be modern and safe, but they know they can be at the mercy of a neighbor.

"I try to be pretty cautious when it comes to stuff like that, but you also live in a building with other people, and you don't know how they live, and they might not be as safe as cautious as I am," said Bowen.

No matter how safe an apartment building is, many say they still purchase renters insurance.

It will protect not only your possessions, but also you financially.  A policy can protect up to $500,000 in assets and cost as little as $10 a month.

Policies can vary in cost, depending on how old the apartment building is that you live in and the type of safety features it has.

"Even if it wasn't on purpose, you're probably going to be sued, so that liability is there to cover you and your assets in case you are sued or found negligent in some sort of a situation," said Adam McKenry, a Knoxville based Farmers' Bureau insurance agent.

Fire investigators say to make sure the fire, smoke alarms and sprinkler systems are all working.

Investigators aren't required to conduct inspections during a specific timeframe.

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