Skip to Content
Get Access to Off-Market Listings.
CityRealty Logo
The following is a list of links to City Realty pages. For screen reader users, all links are visible at all time, so you may ignore the control buttons
The following is a list of links to City Realty pages. For screen reader users, all links are visible at all time, so you may ignore the control buttons
For screen reader users, all slides are visible at all time so you may ignore the control buttons
A blog from CityRealty (Links below will take you to the 6sqft site)


(Pixabay) (Pixabay)
When you buy a home, the last thing you want to think about is what might happen if there is a disaster, but disasters do happen, and New Yorkers know this more than anyone else. From the 9/11 attacks that forced thousands of Lower Manhattan residents to leave their homes to the massive flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy to the current pandemic; in the twenty-first century, New Yorkers have already faced multiple disasters. So, how do you protect your property and yourself from a disaster?

This guide offers advice on how best to prepare for the very worst in New York City.

Preventing Fires

Each year, the city reports over 2000 structural fires. In some cases, entire properties are lost, but in most cases, the real problems are smoke and or water damage. Fortunately, there are several concrete things one can do to mitigate the risk of residential fires.

• Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms and ensure the batteries are working (check your alarms at least twice a year).

• While it may seem counter-intuitive, locate your smoke alarms outside the kitchen; alarms are easily triggered in small, hot kitchens, and this can lead people to de-activate their alarms. Consider locating your alarm or alarms in the bedroom instead.

• Don’t leave your stove on unattended (e.g., if you’re cooking, avoid leaving your apartment, even to run across the street to pick up an ingredient from the store).

• If you smoke, don’t smoke inside (notably, although fewer people smoke now than in the past, smoking remains the number one cause of residential fires ).

• Avoid the use of space heaters.

• Avoid using extension cords for large appliances (e.g., an air conditioner or refrigerator).

• Have a portable fire extinguisher on hand to put out small fires if they do occur.

Preventing Gas Leaks and Explosions

In 2015, a gas explosion in the East Village leveled half a block of buildings and resulted in the injury and death of several tenants. The cause was greed and negligence. In this case, the owner of one building had illegally tapped into a gas line. Since the explosion, concerns about gas explosions have increased and so have local efforts to regulate how gas is supplied to residential buildings. Specifically, the City dictates that all work on gas lines be carried out by “a licensed master plumber, a person with a gas work qualification or a person with a limited gas work qualification,” that any work done is subject to a final inspection by the Department of Buildings, and that tenants be updated on any leaks or suspected leaks to a building’s gas lines.

Although the onus is largely on building owners, not tenants, there are still some precautions that unit owners and tenants can take to reduce the risk of gas explosions and leaks in their homes:

• Install a gas detector and ensure it is working; if it is battery operated, check the batteries at least twice a year.

• Make certain all your burners are turned completely whenever you finish cooking or leave your home.

• Ensure your pilot light is always on.

• Don’t DIY when it comes to gas repairs! If you need to fix a gas appliance, call a professional.

• Regularly check the connector that brings gas to your appliances to ensure it isn’t cracked.

• Store flammable cleaning products and paints away from your gas appliances.

Preventing Floods

There are two types of flood threats—external (a flood caused by a hurricane or broken water main) and internal (a flood caused by something that goes wrong in your building). While you may not be able to prevent external floods, if you’re a homeowner, there are some ways to mitigate the potential damage (for more information, read New York City’s Homeowners Guide to Rain Event Preparedness). Fortunately, on the internal side, most flooding threats can be reduced or eliminated with a bit of common sense:

• Avoid overfilling your bathtub and don’t leave tubs unattended while being filled.

• If you have a washer or dishwasher, ensure they are properly installed (hire a professional to do the installation).

• Replace old and leaky toilets.

• Check your ceilings for stains and mold; if you see something suspicious, report it to your superintendent (it is likely a sign of a roof leak or, if you’re on a lower floor, a broken pipe or problem originating in a neighbor’s unit).

Preventing Infestations

Even in the most pristine buildings, infestations of bugs and vermin are commonplace. As a property owner, your first line of defense is your own vigilance and common sense. Among other steps, be certain to:

• Ensure your food is properly stored and always use bug-proof food storage containers. Storing food in bug-proof containers is one way to avoid attracting cockroaches and other pantry pests. Also, if you purchase a contaminated product (e.g., a bag of rice or flour with bugs or larvae) the infestation will be contained to just one bin.

• Seal all cracks under your sinks and in and around your cupboards and baseboards.

• Remove garbage from your unit on a regular basis (ideally, twice a day).

• Avoid bringing items found on the street (e.g., an antique table or chair) into your unit, even if you come across a great find. Abandoned furniture is frequently a source of cockroaches and bedbugs.

• Place cockroach traps in your cupboards and under your kitchen and bathroom sinks; check the traps regularly for signs of an infestation.

• Be proactive—if you suspect an infestation, contact your superintendent (most buildings already have a regular contaminator who visits bi-weekly or monthly).

Preventing the Indoor Spread of Viruses

A final consideration, and one that still may be lingering on everyone’s mind, is how to prevent the spread of viruses and diseases indoors. As the past 15 months have shown, in most cases, staying at home is an effective way to avoid the spread of a virus, including SARS-related viruses such as Covid-19. Still, there is growing evidence of airborne transmission, especially in buildings with poor ventilation and filtration systems.

Ideally, we would all live in buildings with filters that hold a MERV rating of 13 or higher (these filters, generally found in hospitals, can help capture up to 80 percent of viral particles). Even if you live in a building that has not upgraded its filtration system, there are a few preventative measures in your control:

• If you live in a high rise or other multi-unit building, keep your windows open, at least a crack, year-round.

• Keep humidity levels up—there is some evidence that viruses survive longer in low humidity environments.

• Also, beyond paying attention to the quality of air in your apartment, continue to regularly sanitize surfaces, especially door handles.

You may not be able to entirely protect your unit from fires, floods, and other types of disasters, but with the right foresight, commonsense, and safety equipment, many potential threats to your property and your health can be mitigated.

Additional Info About the Building

Contributing Writer Cait Etherington Cait Etherington has over twenty years of experience working as a journalist and communications consultant. Her articles and reviews have been published in newspapers and magazines across the United States and internationally. An experienced financial writer, Cait is committed to exposing the human side of stories about contemporary business, banking and workplace relations. She also enjoys writing about trends, lifestyles and real estate in New York City where she lives with her family in a cozy apartment on the twentieth floor of a Manhattan high rise.