Fire safety requires preparation

September 2013 Fire & Safety

There’s more to devising a fire safety plan for your business than meets the eye. An evacuation plan springs to mind, but have you given any thought to the ultimate in an early warning system – a smoke alarm? asks leading fire and security organisation, Chubb Fire and Security South Africa.

Smoke alarms are designed to warn employees, visitors and occupants of a building in the event of a fire, as well as to minimise false alarms. If the fire alarm sounds, follow these steps and become thoroughly familiar with them. It is imperative all your employees and visitors know what to do, prior to a smoke alarm warning.

* Alert everyone in the building.

* Leave the building immediately. Every second counts, don’t waste time picking up valuables.

* Don’t open any inside door without first feeling its surface. If it’s hot, or if you see smoke seeping through cracks, don’t open that door. Instead, use an alternate exit. If the inside of the door is cool, place your shoulder against it, open it slightly and be ready to slam it shut if heat and smoke rush in.

* If the air is smoky, stay close to the floor. Stay calm and breathe shallowly through a cloth – a wet one if possible.

* Once outside, go to your selected meeting place and make sure everyone is there.

* Call the fire department from the nearest office block – via their reception security.

* Don’t return to your office until the fire officials say that it is all right to do so.

Consider positioning smoke alarms in the following areas:

* Every room of the building.

* Every level of the building if you have a multiple level office.

* All stairwells – these act like chimneys for smoke and heat.

* Every area/room where electrical appliances are operated (e.g. portable heaters, humidifiers or air conditioners).

* In the basement or garage.

Smoke, heat and combustion products rise to the ceiling and spread horizontally. Mounting the smoke alarm on the ceiling in the centre of the room places it closest to all points in the room. When mounting an alarm on the ceiling, locate it at a minimum of 10 cm from the side wall. When mounting the alarm on the wall, use an inside wall with the top edge of the alarm at a minimum of 10 cm and a maximum of 30,5 cm below the ceiling.

Additionally, smoke alarms should not be installed within 1 m of the door to the office, kitchen, forced air supply ducts used for heating or cooling, ceiling or ventilating fans, or other high air flow areas.

To avoid the unnecessary dispatch of the fire officials, note that the following areas could generate false alarms:

* Dusty, very humid – moisture or steam can cause false alarms, as well as insect-infested areas.

* Kitchens – normal cooking may cause false alarms. If a kitchen alarm is desired, it should have an alarm silence feature or be a photoelectric type.

* Near fluorescent lights. Electronic ‘noise’ may cause false alarms.

The following good safety habits are always useful for any business to follow:

* Install and maintain a fire extinguisher on every level of the building, in the kitchen, basement and garage. Each staff member should know how to use a fire extinguisher prior to an emergency.

* Have a staff meeting and discuss your escape plan, showing everyone what to do in case of fire.

* Determine a place outside your office where you all can meet if a fire occurs.

* Familiarise everyone with the sound of the smoke alarm and train them to leave the building when they hear it.

* Practice a fire drill at least every six months, including fire drills at night. Practice allows all occupants to test your plan before an emergency.

For more information contact Chubb Security South Africa, +27 (0)31 362 3500,

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