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As you look for ways to make your condo feel like home, it's important not to overlook safety. That's why we compiled the following tips for enhancing safety in your condo — both before you purchase and after you move in.

Before you purchase

When purchasing a condo, safety should always be top of mind. You will be sharing the building with other condo dwellers, so it's important to be vigilant about safety and security. Before you decide on a place to call home, make sure it's properly equipped with the following safety features and enhancements. This will allow you to make an informed decision about purchasing.

Fire safety

In 2020, an estimated 379,500 total residential structure fires resulted in $8.7 billion in direct property damage.1 To help ensure your safety, make sure your building has the following:

  • Sprinkler systems: A home sprinkler system can save lives and property by responding quickly to a fire. Not only will you have more time to escape before the fire escalates, but your condo and the items in it have a greater likelihood of surviving the fire as well.2 Sprinklers should be installed in the building hallways and other common areas as well as in the individual units.

  • Heat sensors and smoke detectors: While smoke detectors are designed to protect people and property by sounding an alarm when a fire occurs, heat detectors can minimize property damage by reacting to the change in temperature associated with a fire.3 Home smoke alarms became more common in the 1980s, and the number of reported fires has fallen sharply since then.4

  • Smoke detectors should be installed on each level of your condo, in each sleeping room and immediately outside each separate sleeping area.5 A heat detector can be used in areas where a smoke detector could result in false alarms, such as the kitchen or garage. Place it away from vents or air ducts that might interfere.6

  • Fire pulls and standpipes: Your condo building should be equipped with fire pulls and standpipes. The former, which requires someone to manually sound an alarm that alerts people to evacuate, can generally be seen in the hallways of large buildings.

  • Standpipe systems are designed to transport water from a water supply source to designated areas of the building. They eliminate the need for long fire hose lays from the fire apparatus to the actual fire, and they serve as a backup to building sprinkler systems.7

General security

When it comes to protecting yourself and your belongings while living in a condo, be sure the following precautions are in place:

  • Access control: These systems should be installed at entryways to ensure that only condo owners and authorized personnel can gain access to the building. Key fobs, key cards and keypads may be the most common options, but cloud-based and mobile access offer added convenience. Intercom systems that allow you to release the door and provide access are also widely used.8

  • Lighting: Adequate lighting should be installed in all common areas, including hallways, storage rooms, trash areas, stairwells and parking garages.

  • Elevator access control: In addition to general elevator access, elevators with floor-to-floor access permissions help ensure that only authorized people can enter individual floors. Both can be accomplished with elevator card readers, elevator keypads or mobile credentials on your smartphone.9

  • Surveillance cameras: For added protection, surveillance cameras should be installed throughout the building and in parking garages; these cameras should be monitored.

  • 24-hour doorman: A doorman can provide an added layer of protection by filtering out people who don’t belong in the building, helping to ensure against vandalism and theft.

After you move in

A host of smart home services can offer an added layer of protection for you and your condo. After you move in, consider the following to better protect your investment.

Centrally monitored alarms

Instead of simply setting off a fire or burglar alarm, these systems are monitored off-site so the authorities can be notified when the alarm is activated. This leads to a quicker response, which usually means less property damage from a fire and fewer losses from theft.

Smart home monitoring systems

When it comes to added security, many condo owners are turning to smart home monitoring systems because they let you know what’s happening in your home when you’re away. These devices connect to your home Wi-Fi, so alerts can be sent to your smartphone when any of the following occur: water leaks, window and door openings, temperature changes, and triggering of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

This makes it possible to promptly respond to potential issues, such as a break-in, while also allowing you to remotely regulate the temperature in your condo or stay ahead of water leaks that could cause interior damage.

Some popular models include Ring, Arlo, SimpliSafe, Vivint and Notion. Notion is a 5-sensor kit that is currently available to Nationwide Private Clients at a discounted price. Visit getnotion.com/nationwide-private-client to learn more.

[1] “Fire Loss in the United States During 2020,” Marty Ahrens and Ben Evarts, National Fire Protection Association, nfpa.org/~/media/fd0144a044c84fc5baf90c05c04890b7.ashx (September 2021).
[2] “Key Findings of the 2021 NFPA Report on Fire Safety in the U.S.,” Fact Sheet, nfpa.org/~/media/Files/Code%20or%20topic%20fact%20sheets/FireSafetyInTheUSFactSheet.pdf (October 2021).
[3] “Heat Detectors vs. Smoke Detectors: What’s the Difference?” Honeywell Building Technologies, buildings.honeywell.com/us/en/news-events/news/2018/05/heat-detectors-vs-smoke-detectors-whats-the-difference#:~:text=Heat%20detectors%20are%20intended%20to,the%20development%20of%20a%20fire.&text=Some%20types%20of%20fires%20%E2%80%9Csmolder,burn%20very%20slowly%20without%20flames (May 1, 2018).
[4] Smoke Alarms in U.S. Home Fires,” Marty Ahrens, National Fire Protection Association, nfpa.org/News-and-Research/Data-research-and-tools/Detection-and-Signaling/Smoke-Alarms-in-US-Home-Fires (February 2021).
[5] Smoke Alarms," Ohio Department of Commerce Division of State Fire Marshal, com.ohio.gov/static/documents/fire_installCAMPAIGN.pdf (accessed March 7, 2022).
[6] “Where Should I Install a Heat Detector?" AlarmGrid, alarmgrid.com/faq/where-should-i-install-a-heat-detector#:~:text=A%20heat%20sensor%20should%20be,off%20the%20ground%20or%20ceiling (accessed March 7, 2022).
[7] “NFPA 1: Where are standpipes required? #FireCodefridays,” Kristin Bigda, National Fire Protection Association, nfpa.org/news-and-research/publications-and-media/blogs-landing-page/nfpa-today/blog-posts/2019/05/10/nfpa-1-where-are-standpipes-required firecodefridays#:~:text=A%20Class%20I%20system%20is,system%20in%20high%2Drise%20buildings (May 10, 2019).
[8] “Apartment Access Control: Why Your Multifamily Building Needs It,” Sarah Kim, ButterflyMX, butterflymx.com/blog/apartment-access-control/ (accessed Feb. 22, 2022).
[9] “Improve your security with elevator access control,” openpath, openpath.com/blog-post/elevator-access-control-system (accessed Feb. 22, 2022).
This insurance overview is for informational purposes only and does not replace or modify the definitions and information contained in individual insurance policies, their endorsements or their declarations pages, which are controlling. Terms and availability vary by state, and exclusions apply. Products are underwritten by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company and affiliated companies, including Crestbrook Insurance, Columbus, Ohio. Nationwide, the Nationwide N and Eagle and Nationwide Private Client are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company.

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