If you're responsible for the safety and security of your workplace's employees, guests and customers, then protecting them against fires needs to be one of your top priorities. The right combination of quick thinking, preparedness, and appropriate firefighting tools can make all the difference between a minor scare and a major tragedy. Here are some of the basic steps you need to take to ensure the happiest possible outcome in the event of a fire.
Know Your Fire Extinguishers
Portable fire extinguishers are your first line of defense against isolated patches of flame that suddenly blossom into threatening view. But before you can use extinguishers effectively, you have to obtain the right tools for the job. Extinguishers are classed by letters ranging from A through K, with A, B, and C (or some combination thereof) as the most common classes. Class A extinguishes ordinary combustible materials, while Class B puts out flammable liquids and Class C uses nonconductive substances to stamp out electrical fires. For most business applications, the smartest move is to select an all-purpose extinguisher that can battle Class A, B, and C fires with equal effectiveness.
Certain types of business risks, however, may call for you to invest in more specialized types of extinguishers in addition to more standard models. For example, if you run a kitchen where grease fires are a possibility, you'll need to post a Class K extinguisher nearby. These extinguishers emit alkaline substances to create a soapy, foamy vapor barrier.
Different classes of fire extinguishers have different ranges. This means that you need to place them at specific intervals so every inch of your facility can receive this form of protection. Class A extinguishers, for instance, should be positioned at 75-foot intervals, while Class B extinguishers should be stationed at 50-foot intervals. For maximum coverage, of course, you'll want to make sure your building has a system of (fully functional) automated fire sprinklers.
Create a Plan
When a fire breaks out, you must make sure that the people within your facility can get out in a fast, efficient, orderly manner. The first step in making this happen is to create a sensible escape plan, not just for fires, but for any disaster that might threaten the building. Map out all the quickest escape routes through your building's emergency exits, and post these maps in prominent places so employees and visitors have ready access to this life-saving information. On the same map, note the location (and type, if applicable) of all fire extinguishers, emergency phones and emergency alarm panels.
An escape route that looks ideal on paper may turn out to be unusable in real life without some modifications. Go through the entire building and make sure the routes are unimpeded by trash bins, furniture, or random supplies and equipment. Determine whether the routes can accommodate the number of people you're sending through them, and make sure all the signs and lighting are functional (including the availability of emergency power or lighting in case of electrical failure).
Prepare Your Staff
Your employees must know what actions to take, both independently and as a team, in case of fire. Handing out written or electronic instructions is a good start, but you can't guarantee that everyone will actually read them. It's best to schedule an in-person training or orientation class, if possible, to make absolutely sure the information on those pages sinks in. This class may include discussions of escape routes, how to use various types of fire extinguishers, where the alarms are located, and where to gather outside the facility.
No matter how well trained your employees are to respond to a fire, clear leadership is a critical aid in these situations. Appoint a coordinator for each department or each floor of your building. This person will be tasked with ensuring that the emergency plans are carried out safely and correctly.
From placing fire extinguishers to planning escape routes, the steps you take now can save both lives and resources in the future. Make those response plans now, and you'll put out a lot of anxiety before you ever have to put out a fire!
For more information,contact a local fire safety equipment supplier like Tri County Fire Protection.