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What to Do if You Discover a Fire in Your Workplace

By nature, fire is very unpredictable and you never know exactly when a fire might break out. You can however take steps to ensure that you know what to do, so if the worst happens you’ll be ready to act. In this article, we’ll give you some useful advice and information to make sure you are best prepared to handle the situation if a fire breaks out in your workplace.

Of course different working environments will have different fire threats and specific safety procedures associated with them, so you should always read your workplace’s fire safety policy carefully. You should also familiarise yourself with fire escape routes, assembly points, where fire equipment is located and how to use it.

The following tips are general guidelines outlining what you should do if you discover a fire, read on so that you’ll feel calm and be best prepared to take action.

  • The first thing to remember is to stay calm and think logically about what you need to do. This is critical to your safety and that of those around you, panicking will only worsen the situation!
  • You need to raise the alarm, do this by alerting people in the immediate area and activate the fire alarm from the nearest fire alarm call point. Most fire alarm systems nowadays have automatic fire detection in the form of smoke/heat detectors, but others will require you to break the glass of the manual call points. Instructions should be clearly displayed at each call point.
  • Next, dial the fire service immediately if you can or if you can’t get someone else to do it. Time is critical when dealing with fire, so you must act fast!
  • If there is any equipment that could cause major safety issues if left running during a fire, shut this down if it is safe to do so. If not you should notify the fire service straightaway on their arrival.
  • You may be able extinguish small fires if you have the correct fire fighting equipment on site and located nearby.
  • Only do this if you know what you are doing and you have a safe escape route. Use common sense, if it’s not safe make sure you get out and stay out!
  • Before you attempt to fight the fire, it is very important check that the type of fire extinguisher you plan to use is suitable for use on the fire. There should be guidelines to help you on the extinguisher itself and signage placed around the area it is stored.
  • Use caution, if you don’t know how to use a fire extinguisher safely, then it’s probably best not to. When using, remember to stand back. Fire extinguishers should be used at a safe distance of around 8-12 feet away from the fire.
  • If you’ve used up a whole fire extinguisher and the flames are still not out, then the fire is too big for you to put out safely and you must leave the building immediately.
  • Make your way to your nearest designated fire assembly point. On your way, close windows and doors behind you if possible, to limit the Oxygen supply and spread of flames.
  • Always use the stairs in the event of a fire and NEVER the lift! Many lifts automatically stop working and return to the ground floor when the fire alarm system is triggered.
  • If you believe someone is still trapped inside the building, check with fire marshals and then inform the fire service. Under no circumstances should you re-enter the building until the fire service have told you that it is safe to do so.
  • Don’t be a hero, the fire service are specially trained and have the appropriate equipment to rescue people from burning buildings. If you fail to take notice of this point you may actually put your own life and others in serious danger.

As they say, prevention is better than the cure and this is especially true in the case of fire. Every workplace should put in place fire protection measures, to reduce the risk of fire occurring and safeguard its employees.

Find out how your workplace can best protect itself against fire, with a fire risk assessment from our fully qualified fire protection specialists. At Euro Fire Protection we also offer a free site survey for your premises, contact us today to find out more and see what we can do to make your working environment a safer place.

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Carrying out an Effective Fire Drill

Fire drills are essential in any workplace or public building for practicing what to do in the event of a fire. They are also a legal requirement under the Fire Safety Order of 2005 and all employees in a company must participate. Here we tell you how to get the most out of your fire practice.

Why have fire drills in your workplace?

There are several reasons why fire drills are important; firstly fire drills are an opportunity to practice evacuation procedures to make sure all staff are familiar with them. They get staff used to exiting a building quickly and therefore in a real life situation panic will be reduced, as everyone will know what they need to do. Fire drills are also useful for testing escape routes to evaluate their effectiveness.

During fire drills, checks can also be carried out on alarm systems to ensure they are working correctly and that emergency exits are unobstructed. Overall fire drills help improve safety, so that you will be best prepared if a real fire does occur.

How often should you have fire drills?

Ideally you should aim to have two fire drills a year at your premises, although this may vary depending on what has been set out in your company’s risk assessment. If you employ shift workers, appropriate arrangements should be made to ensure all staff participate in at least one fire drill per year.

Should you inform staff before a fire drill?

There are arguments for and against making people aware of fire drills before they take place. Some people argue that not informing staff gives an element of surprise, so that people take drills more seriously. However this can also have the opposite effect in a real fire, as on hearing the alarm people may think that it is only a drill.

The advantage of informing all staff of fire drills beforehand is that firstly, they will not panic, which avoids potential injuries that could be caused in a rush to exit a building. Secondly if the alarm sounds without a prior warning, there will be no ambiguity as to if it is a drill or not and people will behave appropriately. In public places such as shopping centres, it is advisable to make members of the public aware when a drill is about to take place.

Preparing for a fire drill

When you are planning a fire drill you should decide on something specific that you are going to monitor. This could be a specific aspect of your escape plan that you have highlighted as needing improvement or a more general goal, such as reducing the amount of time it takes for everyone to exit the building.

Amongst the staff, a team of fire marshals with a chief fire marshall and deputy in charge, should be appointed to supervise fire drills and check that everyone gets out safely. All marshals will require special training so that they can carry out their duties safely and effectively. Deputies should be given the opportunity to participate in fire drills so they can familiarise themselves with their role in case of the absence of the chief fire marshal if a real fire occurs.  

If you have a system that automatically informs the fire service when the alarm is triggered, you need to take appropriate measures to stop this from causing the Fire Brigade a wasted journey. Take any systems off line before the fire drill but be sure to get them back up and running once the drill has finished. You should also notify people in nearby buildings of the drill date and time beforehand so that when they hear the fire alarm, they know that there is not a real fire.

During the fire drill

To monitor fire drills, observers should be placed at points around the building in areas such as stairwells to look for good and bad practices. Any room for improvement can be noted and then mentioned at a debriefing meeting after the drill.

In buildings where there are more than one exit route, the main exits should be blocked off to encourage staff to use alternative escape routes as in a real fire, parts of the building could be impassable due to fire or smoke.

Set a stopwatch to record how long the full evacuation takes, fire marshals should do a roll call and tick people off to make sure everyone is out of the building. Before exiting themselves, fire marshals should do quick sweep of the building including the toilets to check no one is trapped inside.   

Evaluate the effectiveness of the fire drill

Debriefing should take place after the fire drill to look at the findings of the observers and evaluate the effectiveness of the evacuation procedures. Particular attention should be made to those points that were highlighted for improvement in the initial planning. To get a better idea of how successful the drill was, you could also invite staff to share their ideas on how they think the drill could have been more effective.

Love them or hate them fire drills are an important part of fire safety and your workplace will be a safer place because of them.

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