Steps to take if you live in a condo or an apartment:

Evacuation plans: The Uniform Fire Code requires multistory buildings to have evacuation plans that are reviewed before the first residents can move in. Some plans, particularly for high-rises, are checked regularly.

Homeowner associations are not required to maintain disaster plans. But some boards appoint a committee to oversee emergency planning. Assigned duties may include first aid, search and rescue, emergency stockpiles and other steps to take until outside aid arrives. Property managers typically supervise the details in large complexes. Check with your homeowners' board or landlord and become familiar with how to operate the utility controls for your building.

Advice for tenants and condo residents:

  • Evacuation: Do not collect personal belongings before exiting. Stay in the designated safe area until you are notified when you can return. Use handrails when descending stairs; persons in wheelchairs and on crutches should be carried downstairs after assembling at the stairwells.
  • Fire: If there is a fire alarm system in the building, learn the location of alarm pull boxes. Spend no more than a few seconds trying to extinguish a fire by smothering it or using a fire extinguisher. Call 911, notify onsite staff, leave your unit and do not lock the doors. If you are trapped in the unit, stay low to the ground, crawl to an outer room and close the door. Use clothing or linens to seal cracks and the door. Signal for help by using the phone or hanging a sign in your window.
  • Earthquake: Move away from windows or any forms of glass; find shelter under a sturdy desk or table, kneel down and cover your head with your arms; if in a wheelchair, stay in it and move to cover beneath a doorway. If outside, move away from the building and utility wires. Take great care when re-entering buildings; watch for structural damage and falling objects.
  • Floods: Move to the second floor or roof, if necessary. Stay away from wiring and electrical connections.


“Before Disaster Strikes,” Institute for Real Estate Management, (800) 837-0706,