Every year, fires cause billions of dollars in property damage and unnecessary deaths and injuries. Safeguarding businesses from fire loss should begin with fire pre-planning, effective mitigation measures, and employees training.
During 2006-2010, an estimated 42,800 fires in or at industrial or manufacturing properties (including utility, defense, agriculture, and mining) were reported to U.S. fire departments per year, with associated annual losses of 22 civilian deaths, 300 civilian injuries, and $951 million in direct property damage. - National Fire Protection Association
Fire Pre-plans can remove many of the uncertainties surrounding a company’s emergency planning strategy and tactical decision-making process. As a result, local responders can enter into an emergency situation conscious of existing factors, minimizing unnecessary risk. These plans should enhance the detail of an emergency response plan, giving the responders every possible advantage in responding effectively to a fire.
- Collaborative planning with local fire department. Identify and discuss potential hazards.
- Coordinate a facility fire hazards inspection by the responding local fire department.
- Seek assistance in identifying applicable fire codes and regulations.
- Establish employee training that highlights fire prevention and containment methods, if applicable.
- Establish and identify alarm system and subsequent evacuation procedures.
- Conduct evacuation drills using maps of evacuation routes. It is crucial to keep evacuation routes clear of obstructions and debris.
- Assign personnel to monitor shutdown, evacuation, and muster procedures.
- Identify and mark all utility shut off locations so that they can be shut off quickly by fire wardens or responding personnel.
- Establish procedures for proper fire prevention handling and storage of flammable liquids and gases.
- Establish a preventive equipment maintenance schedule to reduce fire risk.
- Place fire extinguishers in appropriate locations and install smoke detectors. Extinguishers must be inspected annually. Test detectors monthly and change batteries at least once a year.
- Consider installing a sprinkler system, fire hoses and fire-resistant walls and doors as part of mitigation measures.
Fire prevention requirements for businesses vary based on numerous operational and location factors specific to each individual business. However, there are several common state-adopted fire code regulations based on the National Fire Protection Association standard. Local authorities, such as cities and counties, typically set more stringent and advanced fire codes levels than those at the state level. It is important to collaborate with local fire departments to ensure compliance and identify the level of internal response appropriate for the specific operations and consistent with employee training.
FEMA lays out five level of response that most businesses will adopt if a fire occurs at the site. Options include:
- Option 1 -- Immediate evacuation of all personnel at the onset of specific alarms.
- Option 2 -- All personnel are trained in fire extinguisher use. Personnel in the immediate area of a fire attempt to prevent spreading, as per appropriate training. In addition, the fire alarm is sounded and all personnel evacuate.
- Option 3 -- Only designated personnel are trained in fire extinguisher use.
- Option 4 -- A fire team is trained to fight incipient-stage fires that can be controlled without protective equipment or breathing apparatus. Beyond this level fire, the team evacuates.
- Option 5 -- A fire team is trained and equipped to fight fires using protective equipment and breathing apparatus.
Well-trained employees are invaluable during a fire. For additional information on assessing employee capabilities for firefighting and appropriate response options, see TRP’s blog entitled Applicability of Emergency Action Plans and Fire Extinguisher Use. The culmination of the emergency planning process and development of an effective plan should minimize operational disruptions, and improve organizational stability and recovery time.
For an understanding of the necessary elements in creating an effective fire pre plan, download our Fire Pre Planning Guide.