The U.S. Fire Administration reports that 93,700 fires occurred in non-residential buildings in 2013, resulting in 65 fatalities, 1425 injuries, and over 2.4 billion in dollar loss. The best way to prevent these deadly fires from occurring is by eliminating the possible fire hazards. You are responsible for fire prevention at work for your safety as well as your co-workers. Potential hazards should be immediately reported to your supervisor or to the University Environmental Health & Safety Department.
If you’re ever confronted with a fire keep your cool, but think fast and act with caution. When a fire is discovered, size it up fast. Knowing when to try to control the fire yourself and when to call for help is essential.
In case of fire, follow the following Emergency Fire Response Procedures:
- Sound the alarm and evacuate the area. Call the emergency numbers you’ve been given, and give the details about the fire (location, how it started, etc.). Never hesitate to call, even if the fire seems minor and you manage to put it out before firefighters arrive. The quicker the alarm is sounded; the sooner firefighters can attempt to get it under control. Have someone meet and tell the firefighters where the fire is located. They can lose valuable minutes if they have to find it themselves.
- You’re responsible for preventing fires, but you aren’t obligated to fight major fires. Fight the fire only if you can do it safely with proper extinguishing materials at hand.
- Warn others immediately. Go to the closest fire alarm pull station and activate the alarm system. Warn anyone in the area so they can get to safety. This is especially important in case of indoor fires. Most people die from smoke, poisonous gases and panic. Panic is usually the result of not knowing what to do.
- Most fires start small, but they can rage out of control in a few minutes. It’s important to know where the fire extinguishers are located and how to operate them properly. Distinguish before you extinguish. Choose the correct extinguisher for the type of fire (paper/wood, grease/gas/flammable liquids, electrical). If you are not trained or authorized to use an extinguisher, don’t try. The time you waste in figuring out an extinguisher could mean the difference between minor damage and a major disaster.
It is important to incorporate the diverse needs of individuals when planning for evacuations. Everyone should take the time to locate the nearest exit or enclosed stairwell that will lead you directly out of the building. Always give preference to the use of an enclosed stairwell in an emergency. Enclosed stairwell landings are an Area of Rescue Assistance for individuals with a disability. Remember, never use elevators during an emergency evacuation.
The following are tips for assisting persons with disabilities to evacuate a building in the event of an emergency:
During an Emergency Evacuation Procedure:
- Communicate the nature of the emergency to the person.
- Ask the person how they would like to be assisted.
- When you evacuate the person, make sure you bring along their mobility aids if possible, for example, cane, walker, etc.
Persons with Visual Disabilities:
Tell the person the nature of the emergency and offer to guide them to the nearest exit. Have them take your elbow and help them avoid obstacles. Even if they have a guide dog, it is wise to offer to physically guide them. When you reach safety, tell the person where they are and help them to get oriented to the location.
Persons with Hearing Disabilities:
While most buildings have flashing light alarms, the person may be engrossed in their work or in a location where the alarm is not readily visible. Communicate the emergency to them in whatever manner is comfortable to you, utilizing hand gestures or a quick note.
Persons with Physical Disabilities:
- Persons using Canes, Walkers or Crutches
Ask the person what assistance they need. If assistance is requested, encourage them to use the stair rail and walk behind the person to act as a buffer from others who may push forward from behind. Note: (If the person does not need assistance, the person should wait until heavy traffic has cleared before attempting the stairs. Utilize the Area of Rescue Assistance until it is safe to exit).
- Persons using Wheelchairs
Ask the person what assistance they need. In general, however, persons using wheelchairs should be moved to a fire safe exit (stairwell landing). If possible, have someone stay with the person until additional assistance has arrived, while a second person notifies rescue personnel of the area in which the person is located. In an emergency, DO NOT USE THE ELEVATORS. All of the stairwell landings are protected with fire rated doors and are the safest place to be in the event of a fire. Rescue personnel are trained to check these areas for persons who may need assistance.
Remember to review fire safety procedures often so you’ll know what to do.
- Act with caution.
- Sound the alarm.
- Warn others in the area.
- Evacuate and stay back unless you’re asked to help.
In case of fire, being informed and prepared can keep you and your co-workers safe from injury.