Fire Safety For Residents

Exit Drills

Creating an evacuation plan and then practicing that plan helps everyone in an emergency. Begin by designing your own fire escape plan. First draw a picture of your home showing all doors, windows, and other areas from which you could escape from each room in your home. Draw arrows to indicate the normal exits which would be your primary escape route. Using a different color, draw arrows showing a second exit from each room in the home.

Once the evacuation plan is completed inside, designate a safe meeting place outside where everyone can gather to meet the incoming firefighters.

Now that your plan is complete periodically practice the plan and change the drill from time to time. Change your drill from fire to earthquake and include duck, cover, and hold. Additionally, you can even change your drill to tsunami and determine where your family would go and meet if they needed to leave your neighborhood altogether.

Smoke Alarms

Smoke alarms are required in all homes and working smoke alarms save lives. Traditional smoke alarms are not designed to detect heat and are not a substitute for carbon monoxide alarms which may be required as well. (See carbon monoxide alarm requirements)

Smoke alarms are required:

  • In and immediately outside every bedroom
  • On every level or story of every home

Generally, smoke alarms are not allowed:

  • Within 3 feet of any shower room door
  • Within 3 feet of heating or air conditioning supply vent
  • Within 3 feet of a ceiling fan blade tip
  • Within 20 feet of a cooking appliance


  • Smoke alarms should be tested at least monthly however you should check with the alarm manufacturer as the test may be required more frequently

Note: check with the smoke alarm manufacturer for specific installation and replacement requirements.

Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Required in California since 2011 carbon monoxide alarms actively work to protect our families from carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas created by incomplete combustion. Carbon monoxide alarms are designed to notify residents when harmful levels of carbon monoxide are present within a home.

Carbon monoxide alarms are required when:

  • Gas appliances are provided
  • An attached garage is provided
  • A fireplace is provided


  • Carbon monoxide alarms should be tested at least monthly however you should check with the alarm manufacturer as the test may be required more frequently

Note: check with the carbon monoxide alarm manufacturer for specific installation and replacement requirements.

Portable Fire Extinguishers

It is good practice to keep at least one portable fire extinguisher in your home. When purchasing a portable fire extinguisher make sure it’s a multipurpose model suitable for hazards like:

  • Class A (wood and paper)
  • Class B (liquid fuels)
  • Class C (safe for use on energized electrical equipment)

Portable fire extinguishers are designed to be used on incipient stage fires and are not intended to fire fully involved fires, ensure you have a way out and call 911 before attempting to use any portable fire extinguisher.

Be sure to review the portable fire extinguishers operation label for proper use and maintenance requirements, Imperial Beach Fire-Rescue does not service or recharge portable fire extinguishers. 

Automatic fire sprinklers

Automatic fire sprinklers have been required in all new homes since 2011. Automatic fire sprinklers are activated by heat (not smoke) and only provide water in the immediate area of activation, not in every room or from every fire sprinkler head simultaneously. Typically, a residential fire sprinkler system should be tested annually to best ensure proper operation, check with Imperial Beach Fire-Rescue, your system installer, or insurance provider for details.

Outdoor Recreational Fires / Fire Pits

Outdoor recreational fire and fire pits can be approved for use if the device meets the requirements and the size of your lot allows it. The California fire code has guidelines specifying the minimum distances to combustible material and structures. For requirements specific to your lot please contact the Imperial Beach Fire-Rescue Department to arrange an onsite assessment.


All consumer fireworks are illegal in the City of Imperial Beach and throughout San Diego County. Any person found in the possession of or found discharging fireworks faces significant fines and or criminal prosecution. Consumer fireworks include but are not necessarily limited to sparklers, firecrackers, bottle rockets, roman candles, and aerial shells. A professional fireworks display can be approved by the Fire Department in association with permitted special events however this requires permitting, insurance, and the correct licenses issued by the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

Rental Property Fire Inspection

Imperial Beach Fire-Rescue staff regularly conduct safety inspections at residential rental properties to determine compliance with state fire regulations. For rental property owners requesting a safety inspection on a specific date please contact our Fire Prevention Division directly at 619-628-1392, rental property inspections are not conducted outside city business hours.

Residential Fire Safety Items

These are some of the most commonly found fire code violations.

  • Smoke alarms
    • Incorrect placement or not installed, faulty or missing batteries
    • Smoke alarms are required in and immediately outside every bedroom and on every story
  • Carbon monoxide alarms
    • Incorrect placement or not installed, faulty or missing batteries
  • Address numbers
    • Incorrect size, not installed or not visible from the street
  • Exposed/damaged electrical
    • Open electrical boxes, broken cover plates, and the unapproved use of extension cords
  • Unpermitted construction
    • Illegal occupancy, unpermitted additions or alterations, illegal dwellings

Hazard complaints

It may become necessary to report a hazard, and hazards are classified into the following two categories:

  • Immediate life safety hazard - When an immediate life safety hazard is identified, 911 needs to be called and emergency responders will be dispatched
  • Hazardous condition - When a hazardous condition is suspected you can contact the Imperial Beach Fire-Rescue Department in person and complete a complaint form or complete the form online, anonymous complaints are not accepted by the city. Staff will process the complaint form, contact the owner of the property (by mail) where the hazardous condition is alleged and conduct a site assessment to determine if the hazardous condition is confirmed or unfounded. If the hazardous condition is confirmed the property owner will have reasonable time to remedy the hazardous condition. Occasionally a suspected hazardous condition is determined to be a violation of the city municipal code and not necessarily the state fire code, these cases are processed by the Imperial Beach Code Compliance Division using a similar process.