Does your industrial facility have specific fire response plans or fire pre-plans? If you answered “yes”, are they accurate and up-to-date? According to investigations conducted by The US Chemical Safety Board (CSB), “Inadequate or poor emergency planning or response has been a recurring finding.” To be sure your facility does not become a statistic, fire pre-plans should be properly developed and exercised. When best practices are followed, these plans can minimize the impacts of a fire on employees, the facility, and possibly the surrounding area.
Below are three common fire pre-planning mistakes and corrective measures that can enhance the overall usability of these plans, limiting the potential impacts of a fire.1. Lack of a Local Planning Coordination: Coordinating fire pre-plans between private and public entities can result in an expedient and safer response. Yet, many companies do not take the time to communicate and coordinate. Partnering with associated response participants will result in a more successful and streamlined implementation of the intended plan.
Coordinated efforts should be reflected when establishing, updating, exercising, and responding to fire emergencies. A coordinated effort should consist of a combination of agreed elements including:
- Company protocols
- Best practices
- Communications systems and methods
Establishing and sharing up-to-date facility information and site-specific potential hazards in a coordinated effort prior to a fire can assist responders in:
- Determining appropriate and proven response methods
- Acquiring and locating necessary equipment
- Removing site-specific obstacles
- Identifying neighboring exposures
The faster the first responders can locate, assess, access, and mitigate the emergency, the sooner the incident will be contained and facility operations restored to “business as usual”. Limiting liabilities in a fire emergency by informing first responders of key components is crucial to your company's livelihood.
2. Difficult Fire Pre-Plan Format: As your organization evolves, grows, and changes over time, personnel, hazards, response equipment, and overall site layout may change. Many plans are out-of-date or the most recent versions are not distributed.
Plan details, such as site-specific information, firewater system, exposures, building hazards, and foam calculations, create thorough fire pre-plans, and may need to be updated over time. Dismissing the importance of maintaining these crucial response plans with the most up-to-date information could put lives at risk, exacerbate the emergency, and become a costly loss for a company.
As a result, each time a single component of the fire pre-plan needs to be updated, a paper document needs to be redistributed. If the plans are located on an internal intranet, the updated document should replace the former version. Utilizing a web-based, database driven system offers instantaneous updates to all authorized personnel, eliminating the possibility of “version confusion”.
These plans should be in “easy-to-read” formats. It is important to remember that responders may have to refer to fire plans at night, in periods of limited light, and in inclement weather. The easier the information is to read, the better it is for all responders. When facilities are large or spread out, color-coded plot plans can be utilized for each segment of the facility. Response strategies can be developed for each area, making it much easier to respond to fires in large complexes.
Because of an increasingly technological-driven culture, the concept of utilizing technology for preparedness planning continues to expand. Establishing or converting your paper-based plans into a web-based, database driven system allows for simple modifications, streamlined company formats, and easy distribution.
3. Limited Accessibility: Industrial fires can escalate quickly and the potential danger to lives and the environment can exponentially increase with time. In the event of an emergency, up-to-date paper plans may not be readily available. Even if a company utilizes electronic plans housed on a remotely accessed intranet, emergency events can render the main data source or server inaccessible.
When an incident is isolated to a particular location, web-based response plans offer accessibility on a company-wide scale. Web-based plans can also provide hyperlinks, forms libraries, simplified interfaces, and other tools designed to improve functionality for plan users and streamline company response elements.
But with any data system, redundancy and backup efforts are essential. In the event Internet connectivity is terminated or inaccessible, emergency managers and responders must have alternative means to access plans. Redundant data centers, scheduled downloads, and security measures must be a part of any web-based emergency management program. This allows for multiple options for accessibility, ensuring the responders have the correct information at critical times.