Fire Safety Planning Part 4: Emergency Procedures
When there is an emergency, it is important to know what you need to do. In the event of a fire, staff needs to know what their role is, how to escape the building and where they need to go after they have exited. Depending on the size and location of the employer, it may have an in house firefighting team. Whatever the role that they have, knowing the emergency procedures is important part of the emergency plan to reduce the chances of injury. This is what we are looking at in Fire Safety Planning Part 4.
Discovering a Fire
When a fire is discovered, the first step is to notify everyone in the vicinity that there is a fire. Whether it is by voice, public address or an actual fire alarm system, the way that notification is given must be known. The location of pull stations should be remembered (they are by all exits out of the building and to emergency stairways). By notifying everyone nearby, you can reduce their chances of being burned or suffering from smoke inhalation.
The next question is: should you try to put the fire out yourself? The answer is, only if you are trained to do so. Not everyone can use fire extinguishers. You must be properly trained so you don’t waste the fluid and put your own life at risk. You also need to look at the fire itself. If it is too big or if you don’t have the right extinguisher for the type of fire, then don’t use it. If you aren’t trained or if the fire is too big, than leave the building.
A fire safety plan should include a floor plan for the building that will show the location of all exits, fire extinguishers and pull stations. Exits should also be clearly marked with exits signs that are illuminated. Whether the emergency exit is off a hallway, in a warehouse or a factory, always make sure they are easily accessible. Blocking the doors with anything or obstructing the route to the doors will put the lives of everyone in that area at risk. The doors should never be locked in such a way as to prevent people from leaving. A panic bar can lock the door on the inside but occupants can still exit. In some cases, such as hospitals and nursing homes, it is necessary to keep the doors locked to keep patients from wandering. In these situations, the fire alarm panel will unlock the doors.
In multi-story buildings, the fire exits will lead into stairwells that act as fire escapes, as opposed to those metal escapes on the outside of buildings. Again, it is important that there be nothing in those stairwells to slow the movement of people through. Newer nursing homes have large landings to accommodate the wheelchairs of residents who can safely wait until the fire department can rescue them.
When designing the emergency plan, always have more than one route for staff to escape in an emergency. The primary route should be the closest to the area where workers are. The secondary route is then the next closest. The reason for this is that a fire, or other emergency, could occur along one route so by having a backup, workers can still reach safety.
After exiting the building, staff need to have a safe place to stay while the fire department checks the building. Muster stations become, then, an important part of the emergency plan. A muster station is a designated safe area where workers can wait. After gathering at the muster station, workers must be accounted for to ensure that no one is missing. The muster station must be located so that it is out of the way of emergency officials.
Regardless of the industry, the role of staff members must be known. From the highest manager at a site to the newest employee, training on the emergency plan must be provided for this reason. Larger employers may have fire marshals that are responsible for ensuring that everyone in a particular area has escaped. Other staff may be emergency responders, such as first aiders or even fire fighters in some cases. They need to be able to find the equipment they need, which itself needs to be inspected at least monthly to ensure performance.
Senior management also has a role in emergency planning. They approve and arrange for testing of all parts of the emergency plan. Annual inspections of equipment by third party providers, such fire extinguishers, need to be scheduled. Drills need to be conducted to ensure staff know what to do and where to go. Most jurisdictions will help you in creating our emergency plan, so don’t be afraid to ask.
The emergency plan brings everything together, from prevention to detection to suppression. An emergency plan will also include steps for medical emergencies, chemical leaks and other emergencies that could happen at your company. By knowing what to do, and drilling to be sure you know, loss of life and property can be reduced. You should also have a plan to examine the system and see what need to be improved. Whatever the situation, fire safety planning part 4 has demonstrated the fire portion of the emergency plan. Like everything plan to stay safe.