It is estimated that up to 80,000 serious workplace fires occur every year in the United States alone, taking the lives of approximately 200 workers and injuring another 5,000. If you own or manage a business, it’s your responsibility to put fire safety measures in place and protect your employees, your company, and yourself from the devastation that can result from a workplace fire.
What is a fire safety plan?
A good fire safety plan outlines the correct procedures to follow in case there is a fire. A fire safety plan does not just involve having an alarm and fire extinguishers. It provides information that is relevant about the building’s layout, the fire protection systems and equipment, and the emergency evacuation procedures. If you do not own the building, contact the owner, as ideally, they should have a fire plan that you are able to review and adapt to your business.
Why it’s important to have one?
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the five most common causes of fires in commercial buildings are cooking equipment, heating equipment, electrical and lighting equipment, smoking materials, and intentional fire setting. Regardless of the type of business you own you will find these causes cover most, if not all, of them. No business is immune to a possible fire, so having a fire safety plan is one more way you can do your due diligence to ensure the safety of your employees & staff.
In 2019 Fires were down by 3.2% from 2010, however, deaths were up 24.1%.
( Source: https://www.usfa.fema.gov/data/statistics/ )
With a fire safety plan in place in all businesses, we can do our part to reduce this number.
According to the National Fire Prevention Association, U.S. fire departments responded to about 3,300 office property fires per year between 2007 and 2011. Most of these fires were in business offices, and happened during business hours.
What is included in a fire safety plan?
The Fire Safety plan must include these types of things:
- Floor plans
- These should show evacuation routes from each floor, along with fire exits, external meeting points, and places of refuge.
- An extra emergency systems floor plan
- Designed to help the fire department, should show fire protection systems, and has a description of the building, along with possible access issues for firefighters.
- How does the Fire Alarm system work?
- Does it communicate straight with any nearby fire service?
- Do you have a voice evacuation system?
- Does it activate any automatic fire suppression systems?
- Dynamics of fire protection equipment
- Sprinklers and fire extinguishers
- Location of standpipe and hose systems.
OSHA requirements for a fire safety plan in the workplace
The employer must develop and implement a written fire safety plan that covers all the actions that employers and employees must take to ensure employee safety in the event of a fire
The employer must include the following information in the fire safety plan:
- Identification of the significant fire hazards
- Procedures for recognizing and reporting unsafe conditions
- Alarm procedures
- Procedures for notifying employees of a fire emergency
- Procedures for notifying fire response organizations of a fire emergency
- Procedures for evacuation
- Procedures to account for all employees after an evacuation
- Names, job titles, or departments for individuals who can be contacted for further information about the plan.
Reviewing the plan with employees
- The employer must review the plan with each employee at the following times:
- Upon initial assignment for new employees
- When the actions the employee must take under the plan change because of a change in duties or a change in the plan.
Additional employer requirements.
- The employer also must:
- Keep the plan accessible to employees, employee representatives, and OSHA
- Review and update the plan whenever necessary, but at least annually
- Document that affected employees have been informed about the plan
- Ensure any outside fire response organization that the employer expects to respond to fires at the employer’s worksite has been given a copy of the current plan.
How to design a fire safety plan
Before you do anything, schedule a meeting with a local fire specialist to find out exactly which types of fire alarm and sprinkler systems city or county codes require you to put in place. Our specialists at Elyon Fire & Life Safety can help you with this. Your location, industry, and facility size can greatly affect your choice of fire protection equipment, so find out exactly what you need before you invest.
- Imagine various scenarios
- When planning your business fire safety plan, start with some basic questions to explore the primary threats your business may face in the case of a fire. These could include: Where might fires break out? How and why would they start?
- Establish roles and responsibilities
- When a fire emerges and your business must evacuate, employees will look to their leaders for reassurance and guidance. Create a clear chain of command with backups that states who has the authority to order an evacuation.
- Determine escape routes and nearest exits
- A good fire evacuation plan for your business will include primary and secondary escape routes. Clear signs should mark all the exit routes and fire escapes. These exit routes should be kept clear of furniture or other objects that could impede a direct means of egress for your employees.
- For large offices, make multiple maps of floor plans and diagrams and post them, so employees know their evacuation routes. For best practices you should also develop a separate evacuation plan for individuals with disabilities who may need additional assistance.
- Once your people are out of the building, where do they go? Designate an assembly point for employees to gather. This is where a designated employee will take a headcount of all present.
- Finally, confirm that the escape routes and the assembly area can accommodate the expected number of employees who will be evacuating.
- Create a communication plan
- During a fire drill, designate someone whose primary job is to call the fire department and emergency responders as well as disseminate information to key stakeholders, including employees, customers, and the news media.
- Know your tools and inspect them
- The National Fire Protection Association recommends testing and inspecting portable fire extinguishers annually, and replacing disposable ones every 12 years. Also, make sure you periodically remind your employees about the location of fire extinguishers in the workplace. Create a schedule for confirming other emergency equipment is up-to-date and operable, the specialists at Elyon Fire & Life Safety can set up an inspection schedule for you today!
Using a graphics program to create your evacuation maps makes it easy to insert clear icons to label elements such as fire extinguishers and exits. Hand-drawing the maps with fine-tipped markers is another option. Remember each map will have a different “You Are Here” point depending on where it’s displayed. Frame the maps and hang them on bare walls where they’re easy to find. Turn each map to match its location so readers can easily orient themselves and find the nearest exit.
Review your fire safety and other emergency plans with all employees who may be affected. If the plan changes, notify your employees.
How to execute a fire safety plan
Rehearsing your fire safety plan is the best way to ensure you can effectively execute it if a real fire should break out. If you have children in school, you know that they practice “fire drills” often, sometimes monthly. Why? Because conducting regular rehearsals minimizes confusion and helps kids see how a safe fire drill should operate, ultimately reducing panic when a real emergency occurs. A safe outcome is more likely to occur with calm students who know what to do in the event of a fire.
Research shows adults benefit from the same approach to learning through repetition.
Key fire evacuation leaders should meet quarterly and plan for an annual or semi-annual full rehearsal of the company fire evacuation plan. Consult any local fire codes for your facility to ensure you meet safety requirements and emergency personnel is aware of your organization’s escape plan.
- For the safety of your employees and everyone that enters your business it is imperative to have a fire safety plan in place.
- You can contact the specialists at Elyon Fire & Life Safety to help you with local compliance codes along with any questions you have about fire safety.
- OSHA requires a written fire safety plan for any business with more than 50 employees.
- Create, implement & rehearse your fire safety plan on a regular basis.