In the early hours of December 8, 2019, a fatal fire broke out at a factory in New Delhi, India, leaving dozens dead and many injured. A local fire chief who spoke to BBC Hindi revealed that “the building did not have a proper fire license and was operating illegally as a factory”.
Some states in Nigeria have also had their share of fire outbreaks in recent weeks and the scare of ‘more’ disasters is further heightened by the very dry and dusty wind of the harmattan. This usually occurs from December to February along the West Coast of the African continent. It is therefore pertinent to discuss fire safety measures at this time. Fire accidents can be prevented or their impact reduced with the installation and practice of approved safety measures.
WHAT IS FIRE SAFETY AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
Wikipedia defines fire safety as the “set of practices intended to reduce the destruction caused by fire. Fire safety measures include those that are intended to prevent ignition of an uncontrolled fire, and those that are used to limit the development and effects of a fire after it starts”.
THE IMPORTANCE OF A FIRE PREVENTION PLAN AT YOUR FACILITY
Fire outbreaks often occur in various properties both residential and commercial, resulting in loss of lives, injuries, destruction of buildings, damaged reputation for organisations and more distressing effects that are unquantifiable.
By establishing a fire prevention and preparedness plan, you can reduce injuries suffered by employees, residents and visitors to your facility. Costly damages and insurance claims levelled against you can also be minimized by simply doing things right. Preparing for a fire emergency is essential and below are some best practices that can save you from the horror of a fire outbreak.
1. Implement an emergency evacuation plan: Emergency response is easier when everyone knows their respective responsibilities. Establish a detailed fire emergency evacuation plan that explains how to respond, when to respond and identifies an emergency egress. If you have employees with special needs or that require special attention, address this aspect in detail in your plan.
2. Establish a fire prevention plan and an emergency evacuation plan: This plan includes instructions on how to reduce the risk of fire in the workplace and a training for employees on what can be done to avoid causing a fire. It is a written document that must be available for staff review without restriction.
3. Train team members: Fire safety training for employees provides them with skills required to prevent fires and exit burning buildings. Investing in safety training sessions for your employees saves more than the amount that is actually expended on these courses. In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommend annual fire extinguisher training for employees. Every employee should receive required training and be briefed on new or updated regulations.
4. Maintain emergency and exit lights: To ensure exits stay illuminated at all times, implement a routine maintenance plan to check lights and replace broken or burnt-out bulbs. In addition, regularly check emergency back-up power and exit lights to confirm they are functioning.
5. Practice proper house-keeping techniques: Daily housekeeping tasks play an important role in keeping facilities clear of fire hazards. Clean up flammable materials immediately, including chemical spills and oil to reduce the risk of fire. Work tools and all equipment should be properly secured in storage areas clear of aisles or fire exits, and not interrupting with automatic sprinkler systems.
6. Create a fire emergency response team: Develop a team of individuals who are trained and educated in fire emergency plan procedures, and are willing to enforce safety and prevention methods throughout the building. The team members will assist others during a fire emergency and help guide people to safety.
7. Precautionary maintenance: Enlisting a licensed and certified fire protection company provides facility managers with quality inspections, safety tests and repairs to fire protection equipment. Establish frequencies as recommended by the equipment manufacturer and your respective local fire authority.
By following these guidelines, your facility and employees will not only be prepared in the event of an emergency, but will be able to respond appropriately.