Fire Prevention & Protection Tips for Office Buildings
No building is ever completely safe from a fire. However, taking proper workplace fire safety measures can go a long way toward protecting your business from a fire emergency. At Kauffman Co., we’ve built this guide to help building managers and owners best protect their employees, customers, equipment, and assets when it comes to both fire prevention and protection.
Every day, fires in the workplace cause hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of damages. When proper steps are taken, workplace fires can almost always be prevented. Here are a few workplace fire safety tips to make sure your office building is safe during a fire emergency.
Keep Up with Regular Inspections
It’s important (both for your safety and to keep your building up to code) that you schedule annual inspections by a reputable fire protection services company. This is a critical step toward ensuring proper workplace fire safety. Hire a certified professional fire protection expert inspect your fire extinguishers, fire alarm system, fire sprinkler system, exit lights and emergency lights to ensure all your fire protection systems will work during a fire emergency. If you have any questions about how to use these systems in the event of a fire, this is a great time to ask the professionals.
Inspect Your Fire Extinguishers Yourself
While a scheduled professional inspection will help keep you up to code and ensure the systems are working, put one or two people in your office in charge of inspecting the systems—especially your fire extinguishers. Workplace fire safety is dependent on not only knowing where your systems are located, but also knowing that they will work during a fire emergency.
In between professional fire extinguisher tests and inspections, there are a few things you can do on your own to make sure that your fire extinguishers will provide the workplace fire safety you need.
- First, check the pressure gauge on the side of the fire extinguisher. If the needle is pointing straight up to the green it means that your fire extinguisher is charged and ready.
- Second, check the date when your fire extinguisher was last inspected. If it has been more than a year, call your local professional fire protection services company to schedule a professional fire extinguisher inspection.
Fire Extinguisher Training for Your Employees
Fire extinguishers are often your employee’s first line of defense against a fire—if properly used, they can minimize the spread of a fire and limit damage or loss. Be sure to train your office staff on all of your fire safety equipment, so everyone will know what to do when a fire emergency occurs, providing maximum workplace fire safety. Many fire protection companies offer indoor and outdoor fire extinguisher training and you can often schedule it on location so that everyone in your building will be comfortable and competent at using the fire extinguisher. Since not all fires are the same, fire extinguisher training is needed to teach your employees how to recognize the type of fire and how to properly react to it.
One of the most important workplace fire safety measures is having a fire extinguisher located on every floor of your office building. More importantly, everyone should know exactly where the nearest fire extinguisher is so they can access it quickly in case of a fire emergency. Relying on a diagram to direct where the nearest fire extinguisher is located can cost precious seconds that may lead to irreversible fire damage. You can have your employees walk to their nearest fire extinguisher regularly, so that they will instinctively know where to go the second a fire starts.
Develop an Emergency Exit & Evacuation Plan
Sometimes the safest way to handle a fire emergency is to get out as fast as possible. Having an emergency evacuation plan and instinctively knowing how to execute it is crucial for situations where trying to stop the fire is too dangerous without the help of firefighting professionals. A solid plan is the absolute most important thing you can do to ensure workplace fire safety in your office. Make sure everyone knows their role during a fire emergency, so your office staff will remain calm and organized. Arrange a fire drill at least once a year, so that everyone will know what to expect and how to react in the event of a real fire emergency.
When you have your annual scheduled fire drill (or more often, if possible), make sure all your employees know where all the building exits are (and instruct them to look for the lighted exit sign above each one). Even though most people exit your office building from the same place every day, during periods of great stress or when smoke is obstructing vision, simple things like finding the doors are can get lost in the panic.
Lighted exit signs are essential to workplace fire safety because they serve as a guide for escape and provide bright lighting for when the power goes out. Make sure all of your lighted exit sign bulbs and batteries are working and have your emergency lights inspected by a professional fire protection services company annually.
Practicing emergency exit plans with your entire office is critical. While most will know the fastest route out from their desk, will they know a safe route from the conference room, lunch room, or mail room? A professional fire protection company can help you design an emergency plan based on the layout of your office building that will quickly and effectively get all of your employees to safety—no matter where they are.
Preparing for an Actual Fire
If you have a serious fire in your building, your fire sprinkler system, fire alarms, and fire extinguishers can only protect you so much. Just like a good offense is a good defense, the best way to keep you and your coworkers and employees safe from fires is to make sure everyone understands how to act so that you can all get out of the building safely. The best thing you can do to stay safe is to plan ahead, keep a cool head, and follow these office fire safety tips so you can keep fires that occur in your building from escalating into devastating tragedies.
In the Event of a Fire: Be Prepared
Having a solid action plan before a fire ever starts is one of the most important things you can do to keep yourself and your employees safe. Be ready and know what to do by:
- Working with a fire protection company to develop a building evacuation plan, and make sure you practice the plan frequently with your employees so they can escape without having to stop and think about it. Make sure you practice your plan frequently with your employees so everyone knows exactly what to do in the event of a fire.
- Making sure the evacuation plan is posted throughout your building in places where people can see it easily. Also make sure the evacuation plan marks at least two exits so people will have an alternative if one exit is blocked.
- Making sure everyone in your office knows the location of your fire alarms and fire extinguishers, and that they know how to use them in the event of an emergency.
- Keeping the exits clear of furniture, equipment, materials and trash, and always keep all stairways and landings clear. Never place or store anything in stairways.
In the Event of a Fire: Stay Calm
Staying calm is the absolute more important thing you can do during a fire—unfortunately, it is also the most difficult. Even so, it is crucial that you keep a clear head and don’t panic during an emergency—this is the only way that everyone will be able to evacuate as safely as possible.
- Call 911 as soon as you are safe – don’t ever assume that someone else has already called. Stay calm while talking to the dispatcher and tell them as much as you know about the situation—where the fire started, if anyone is trapped, etc. Every piece of information is vital to helping firefighters assess the situation and take action.
- Never use the elevator during a fire – always use the stairs. If there is a power outage, or if the fire department has to cut the power, the elevator may get stuck with you in it.
- If you have to open a door during your escape, feel the door handles with the back of your hand, then feel the door from top to bottom before you open it. If the door is too hot, don’t open it—there could be smoke or flames behind it that could rush into the room as soon as it is open, creating an oxygen glut that could be fatal. If the door is (relatively) cool, slowly open it and be prepared to quickly close it if smoke or heat rushes in.
- Evacuate as efficiently as possible, making sure you close every door behind you to contain the fire and slow it down as much as possible.
- If smoke or fire blocks your path, find a different exit as fast as possible. If you get caught in smoke during your escape, drop as low as possible and move toward the exit – heat and smoke rise, so the cleanest air is going to be closest to the floor.
In the Event of a Fire: If You Can’t Get Out
If you absolutely can’t escape, don’t worry—the fire department is on their way and they will be able to assist you. Again, a clear head is your most important tool in this situation.
- If possible, build a barricade out of desks, tables and chairs to protect you from heat, flames and smoke. Seal up any cracks by using wet jackets or towels, or any other materials you have.
- If you can find a phone within easy and safe reach, call 911 and give them your exact location—even if the fire department is already there. The dispatcher will relay with information to firefighters and they will get you out.
- If you can wait by a window, signal for help by waving something that would be visible from outside. You may even be able to open the window for fresh air—just make sure you can close it again if smoke rushes in.
- Above all, make sure you stay calm. Panicking and running around is the most dangerous thing you can do in a fire situation.