Fire Prevention Plan 101: Tips for everyday life
Fire can be a friend or a foe… While it warms us, allows us to cook our meals and so much more, it can also be a very dangerous enemy, putting at risk our house, our work place, our forest, our families. A small fire, which we would not even consider as a threat, can turn into hell in a matter of minutes, if not seconds. You really need to see it to believe it.
How fast fire spreads
Fire: Be prepared
We need to be prepared, to have some idea of what we should do in case of a fire, but we also need to take some precautionary measures and make sure they are followed.
You may be aware that every building must have a Fire Prevention Plan, so either we are talking about a big public building, a sports arena, a church, a small store, an office or an apartment building – it really doesn’t matter – there ought to be a Fire Prevention Plan.
Along with the Fire Prevention Plan there should also be an Emergency and Evacuation Plan and people in charge to put them in place, obviously.
Now, this is all very nice, but a lot of times it’s just theory. I’m not saying the plans don’t exist, because most likely they do, but usually they are just forgotten somewhere until the day something actually happens.
Unlike what we may think the Fire Prevention Plan and its procedures are not an endless list of impossible things to do, actually what a Plan aims at is creating simple routines, changing bad habits we all have or just warning us of possible dangers, which sometimes we don’t even realize are there. So this Plan it’s not just boring talk, actually it’s about valid, solid pieces of advice. If you don’t want to go over it all, you can at least memorize the main and most important pieces of advice, because that can make a real difference.
And remember, just because you are not in charge of putting in place the plan in a building, or even if you are just the occasional visitor, it doesn’t mean you can overlook mistakes that can lead to a disaster in case of a fire. Therefore, be sure to let someone know if you find a situation in a building that needs to be corrected, for instance a missing fire extinguisher, a blocked emergency exit or any other.
Here is what you should know.
Fire Prevention Plan 101
There are a few basics you need to be aware of when you enter any building, to work, to live in or just to visit.
- Emergency Plans: First, we all should pay more attention to the emergency plans on the walls. They are there for a reason. They allow us to know a bit more about the building, which is particularly important if we don't know the place that well, to know where we can run to in case of an emergency, escape routes and where is the basic equipment if there is a fire, such as a fire extinguisher. That is the reason why emergency plans are usually posted near the entrance of the buildings. This allows the fire fighters to know what they are dealing with as they go in the building, where are the stairs, the various pieces of equipments, where may the people be, how to get to the fire, etc. So, make sure there is a proper emergency plan and be aware that more than often changes are made to buildings, but not to the emergency plans. If you find an incorrect emergency plan, don't forget to let someone know, you may be saving a life.
- Fire Evacuation Routes: If you are inside a building you should be aware how you can get out of the building fast enough if you need to, you will probably use an evacuation route, but what if that evacuation route is filled with flammable materials, things in your way, like chairs and lovely flowerpots? That's right, fire evacuation routes must be clear from everything that is not essential, keep it to the minimum, forget the flowerpots that are great for someone to trip over while trying to get out, forget about lovely tables to put magazines on top or chairs... And if you think a fire evacuation route shows these or other problems, be sure to let someone know.
- Emergency Exits: It's not been once or twice that I have come across this problem, but countless times. Have you noticed how some emergency exits in some building are blocked by something or even locked? This is a serious issue, imagine trying to get out of a burning building, heading through the evacuation route to the nearest exit only to find you can't get out. This behaviour is criminal and should be immediately reported. It may not seem much, we go past an emergency exit at our local mall and we notice it's blocked or locked or whatever and just keep walking most of times, unaware that we may be sentencing even ourselves to something very bad, it may be us trying to get out through that exit someday. So, report it if you find something like that, make sure it is corrected and take care that emergency exits are always clear from every possible obstacle and ready to be used whenever.
- Fire fighting and detection equipment: Now, there are various issues to consider when it comes to these equipments: if the equipment is working properly, if maintnance was undertaken, if the equipment is where it was supposed to be and so much more. How many times have you passed the space of a fire extinguisher bellow its sign and asked yourself where might it be? Was it a matter of maintnance? Well, did you know that if such equipment needs to be taken out for maintnance purposes a temporary one should replace it during the maintnance period? The same applies to the rest of the fire fighting or fire detection equipment. And how many times have you seen smoke detectors or fire detection centrals or even fire extinguishers partially or totally covered by a curtain, a piece of furniture or some other thing... At all times fire fighting and/or fire detection equipment must be in its proper, designated place (according to the plans), ready to be used and in plain sight.
- Storage rooms, garages and dangerous materials: At our work place or at home, we all have some place where we just store stuff we don't want anymore, the sort of room where, best case scenario, we'll probably go in twice a year and just to add something to our memorabilia until the next garage sale. Believe it or not, this is a dangerous place. The garage, where we most likely store some dangerous materials, probably in small amounts but still, is another. And then there are other places throughout houses and other buildings that most likely, because of what is done there or what is stored there, are a bit more dangerous than we perceive. So, be sure to check storage rooms more often, also check the place's electric wiring and other installations or equipment that can cause a fire and make sure it's cleaned often, don't smoke in these places and be careful with flammable material you are storing. About the garages and others try to lower to a minimum the dangerous material you keep, if possible buy only the amounts you will need to use at a given time. But if you do need to have dangerous materials stored be sure to store them in a safe place, away from flammable materials, away from ignition sources. If you are unsure about the material you are handling ask for the specifications sheet of the product.
Playing for safety
Now, that you are aware of the basics, try looking around the places you go and even your own house and find out what's wrong, if anything is wrong at all. It can be a bit like a game and in time you'll find out you will do it naturally as soon as you go in the door.
These precautionary procedures are very simple and should come naturally to all of us, so we need to teach ourselves to think differently and to put safety first.
While we are at it, let's not forget to make sure we check regularly our house and work place for possible problems, maintnance on all installations, electric wiring, water supply, domestic appliances and so many others. This is something we cannot overlook.
Let's be safe!
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© 2012 Joana e Bruno