When a fire threatens your business and staff, there are countless things that can go wrong—each with incredibly devastating consequences. This threat is increased tenfold when your business is situated in a commercial building, where fire can easily spread in a matter of minutes leading to mass panic, injury and even death. As a business owner, ensuring the safety of your staff and premises is paramount. As such, coming up with an ironclad fire safety plan that protects your people and premises is vital. It could literally mean the difference between life and death.
Today, we share 6 tips that are guaranteed to help you towards building the ultimate fire safety plan for your large or commercial building. Read on to find out more.
Know Your Tools and Inspect Them
Most commercial buildings are equipped with a number of different fire safety tools, but when was the last time your organisation inspected that dusty fire extinguisher in the corner? The truth of the matter is that all the tools in the world are rendered useless in an emergency if they are not regularly maintained and/or inspected. As a general rule, Fire Protection Association Australia (FPA Australia) advises refilling reusable fire extinguishers or replacing them every 3-5 years.
In addition to fire extinguishers, it is imperative to regularly inspect other tools and equipment including:
- Sprinkler systems
- Fire alarm systems
- Emergency lighting
- Fire blankets
- Fire doors
- Escape ladders
Regular inspections and maintenance will help you to identify any possible issues such as the need for replacement extinguishers or new fire sprinkler installation before disaster strikes. This small but crucial step can make all the difference in saving precious lives, and should always be top on the list of your fire safety plan.
Conduct A Fire Risk Assessment
Another crucial aspect of building a watertight fire safety plan is to conduct a thorough fire risk assessment on your commercial premises or buildings. Simply put, a fire risk assessment is an evaluation conducted by a professional authority to identify fire hazards and fire protection measures. In some cases, your assessment may also include planning for the safety of people at risk. Ideally, employers, site managers, and safety officers should work together to create effective fire safety plans based on fire risk assessments.
By enlisting the help of a professional, you will quickly be able to identify possible risk areas in your building, whether that be an issue with faulty wiring, substandard design, outdated equipment or more. Learn more about fire risk assessment and why you need it here.
Ensure Compliance Of Australian Fire Standards & Building Code
Whether you are a business owner or building manager, ensuring compliance of Australian Fire Standards and Building Code is a non-negotiable. Generally, all businesses and commercial building are expect to adhere in accordance to the following fire safety building codes where applicable:
- AS 1670 – Automatic fire detection and alarm systems
- AS 1841 – Portable fire extinguishers
- AS 1851 – Routine service of fire protection systems and equipment
- AS 2293 – Emergency escape lighting and exit signs
- AS 2444 – Portable fire extinguisher and fire blankets
- Building Codes of Australia/National Construction Codes (BCA/NCC)
For more information on the matter, please check the following links:
Determine Clear Emergency Exits, Escape Routes & Fire Signage
Even the most detailed fire safety plan is vulnerable to failure if your building lacks clear emergency exit signs, escape routes and fire signage. As such, your fire safety plan should include not just primary and secondary escape routes, but also mark all the exit routes and fire escapes with clear and highly visible signage. Always remember to keep exit routes free of objects or furniture that could impede a direct means of egress for your employees or even serve as a further fire safety risk in the event of an emergency. You should also consider providing employees with floor plans and diagrams to make them aware of all possible evacuation routes.
Top Tip: Fire discriminates against no one, and ensuring that you have a separate evacuation plan for employees with disabilities or physical limitations is essential.
Establish Roles and Responsibilities
In the event of a fire, it is important to ensure that all your staff on the premises are aware of their individual roles and responsibilities during an emergency. With this in mind, it is vital to create a clear chain of command with adequate backups that state who has the authority to order an evacuation. Some of the primary roles you should consider implementing in your fire safety plan include:
Chief Fire Warden – This employee has overall responsibility in the event of a fire, including planning and preparation. They will check bathrooms, ensure all doors have been closed and perform a headcount at a safe location.
Assistant Fire Warden – The assistant fire warden typically makes use of a mass alert system to notify employees of a fire, is in charge of calling the fire department and gathering reports.
Route Guides – Route guides play a critical role in ensuring that escape routes are clear, evacuation is orderly and that staff remain calm.
Floor Monitors – Floor monitors ensure that the area is clear before reporting back to the chief fire warden.
Practice Regular Fire Drills
Having a solid fire safety plan in place is often only half the battle — with the other half being the task of ensuring that all your employees are familiar with current evacuation and emergency processes. This is why regular fire drills and evacuation exercises are such an important component of your fire safety plan. These exercises are critical to familiarise employees with current emergency procedures, and every department should participate in at least one exercise every 6 months.
The goal is to ensure that staff have an automatic response whenever fire alarms sound, so that everyone safely evacuates the area in a safe and orderly manner. At the end of the day, preparation is the key to effective response to workplace fires. Learn more about how you can conduct regular fire drills in a commercial building here.
Undergo Proper Safety Training
Last but not least, as the tongue-twisting saying goes, proper preparation prevents poor performance. Regardless of an individual’s role in the workplace, fire safety training is required for all building occupants. Adequate and regular safety training is an essential component of any successful fire safety plan, and can help to ensure that all individuals possess necessary skills to prevent fires from occurring or reacting to a breakout in the event of an emergency. Some examples of what employees will learn during fire safety training include:
- How to use fire extinguishers, and what type of extinguisher to use depending on the type of fire that occurs;
- How to activate fire alarms;
- How to work together as a team in the event of a fire;
- Recognising fire hazards; and
- Other forms of emergency response training.
And there you have it – everything you need to know and implement to create the ultimate fire safety plan for large commercial buildings. In an emergency, people tend to panic, but with a good plan in place, you will be well equipped to prepare ahead of time and make safe outcomes all the more likely.