About 377 people die and more than 3,000 others get injured in about 24,000 house-based fires in Canada each year. While the houses in question are mainly homes, business premises aren’t spared from fires either.
Fires are usually rare, but they often have devastating effects when they happen. This makes it imperative that you stay on your toes by creating a comprehensive and implementable fire safety plan.
The question is how you can create an effective fire safety plan for your building. But before we get to that, let’s start with the basics.
What Is a Fire Safety Plan?
A fire safety plan is a detailed document covering all fire safety aspects for a specific property or building. The building or property could be a commercial place like a business or a residential property such as a private home or an apartment building.
A building’s fire safety plan mainly considers three critical aspects of fire safety.
- Fire prevention measures: The property manager, purchasing agent, fire warden, or designated fire staff must ensure there are proper fire prevention measures in place.
Proper housekeeping and maintenance practices are crucial in ensuring buildings prevent fire outbreaks. As per the adage, prevention is better than cure, and it’s important to always be prepared.
- Evacuation procedures: In the event a fire occurs, building managers must ensure there is an implementable evacuation procedure in place that leads to the safe evacuation of staff and clients.
- Fire damage control: Every building must have a proposed and workable plan for minimizing the damage caused by a fire. This could be as simple as ensuring escapees close doors behind them, or as complex as sucking oxygen from sensitive rooms, such as server rooms.
Purpose of a Fire Safety Plan
Fire safety plans have one major purpose: to enhance and maintain the safety of people, animals, and property.
Fires do not spare anything. They destroy everything in their path. It’s crucial that your plan can help you protect property and the lives of people and animals caught in a fire outbreak.
Who Should Create a Fire Safety Plan in the Business World?
Every building should develop a fire safety plan of its own. No single building is like the other, meaning that each must formulate its own plan if it wants to overcome a fire outbreak.
Administrators and managers must ensure they develop a plan to protect and save lives and property in high-risk buildings such as:
- Hotels (more risks because of kitchens and sleeping rooms)
- Residential apartments
- Construction sites (activities like welding and painting could easily result in fires)
- Large office buildings (fires could be caused by cooking systems in staff break rooms, unsafe smoking within the premises, or electrical faults)
- Event centers like cinemas
The people in charge of such establishments who should care about developing and enforcing fire safety plans include:
- Property managers (both residential and commercial)
- Construction managers
- Warehouse managers
- Hospital administrators
- Factory/facility managers
- General managers
- Purchasing agents
- Hotel managers
- Fire wardens or designated fire staff for all the above and other building types
How to Create a Fire Safety Plan for Your Building
People tasked with fire safety in buildings can create fire safety plans by taking care of the following aspects:
1. Fire Safety Assessment
The first step to creating a successful fire safety plan is to do a comprehensive fire safety assessment to find out the strong and weak areas in your fire outbreak preparedness.
While it’s tempting to do this only internally and try to convince yourself that your preparedness is topnotch, you shouldn’t go down this path.
The best way to do the assessment is to enlist the services of your local municipal fire department. You can also hire a private fire safety company to evaluate your readiness to fight a fire in case one erupts within your premises.
In some cases, insurance companies can help you do the fire safety assessment since they are interested in knowing how much fire risk there is before they can insure your building.
An assessment done by your local fire department is better placed to inform you of how well or poorly you score on the preparedness scale. It even helps you fully comply with the department’s fire safety standards.
2. Emergency Procedures
Once your fire assessment report is out, you can proceed with the rest of the process of formulating the plan. You’ll need to use the observations and recommendations in the report to draw up an operational plan that will ensure the highest possible levels of fire control success.
Your fire safety plan should capture the following emergency procedures in the event of a fire:
- Sounding the alarm: Who should sound the alarm? In most buildings, the first person to spot the fire is the one who sounds the alarm.
In crowded places like theatres or cinemas, where people could easily panic and cause a fatal commotion, the alarm is often sounded by the staff. The staff members then calmly lead the evacuation.
- Evacuating occupants: You must state how you plan to evacuate people from the building when the fire alarm is raised.
People and pets who need assistance must be helped out of the building safely. You must also pre-plan where you want the people to go after evacuation, such as a designated fire assembly point.
- Notifying the fire department and other key stakeholders: Your plan must state how and who should notify the fire department and other crucial stakeholders like designated fire staff, business officials, and building owners.
You should indicate the address of the building and list emergency phone numbers wherever there is a telephone in the building.
- Confining, controlling, and extinguishing the fire if possible: Depending on the extent of the fire and the fire laws in your locality, you should attempt to confine, control, or even put out the fire.
In some jurisdictions, you may not be allowed to intervene if there are explosives in the building or nearby.
Your emergency procedures plan should also outline your fire evacuation plan, which usually features instructions to staff and other occupants on how to act in case of a fire. Such instructions include:
- Executing preplanned fire containment procedures if you are a designated fire emergency staff
- Shutting down processes or equipment as outlined in the safety plan
- Leaving the building immediately without stopping to collect valuables
- Activating the fire alarm and/or shouting “Fire!” to alert other people
- Assisting people and pets who are in immediate danger, but only if it’s safe to help them out
- Closing all doors behind you to confine the fire and slow the spread to other areas
- Exiting the building using the stairwells and emergency doors
- Refraining from re-entering the building until authorized by the fire marshal or other fire expert
3. Fire Drills
Your fire safety plan must show how, when, and how often you plan to do fire drills in your building to gauge your preparedness and success levels.
You can do the drills two to three times a year. In high-tension areas like places prone to terrorism, there is the need to ensure everyone in the building knows beforehand that you’ll conduct the fire drill. This helps avoid panicking, which has been known to cause deaths in some places when people suddenly jumped out of windows.
4. Staff Education
As a responsible emergency services professional or building manager, you must educate your staff or frequent occupants on fire safety. It pays to display the fire safety plan in common places within the building to keep everyone updated.
The fire safety education should be offered to other staff, not just those designated to actively handle fire issues when they arise.
5. Fire Prevention Measures
It’s better to prevent a fire from breaking out than to battle hard to put one out when it happens. Your plan should detail the measures you will take to prevent a fire from occurring. Such measures include:
- Isolating fire-risky operations
- Cleaning work areas before and after every working session
- Storing combustibles and flammables safely, away from sources of ignition like welding flames, sparks, furnaces, space heaters, and smoking areas
- Ensuring all hot work equipment such as welders are well maintained and in good working condition
- Ensuring all electrical systems are safely installed and functioning properly
- Disposing of waste material like flammable goods containers correctly
6. Damage Control Measures
Fires often grow from a simple flame to devour property and lives within seconds. You should have measures in place to control fire and minimize the damage it causes.
For example, your building should have an elaborate and functional fire sprinkler system. The system should be highly functional, such that when a fire occurs, every sprinkler goes off to flood the area with as much water as possible to put out the fire.
If you have sensitive areas like safes and server rooms, you can have mechanisms in place to suck the oxygen out of the rooms to prevent damaging the equipment.
7. Maintenance of Fire Protection Systems
Simply having fire protection and extinguishing systems in your building is not enough. Your fire safety plan must show how, when, and who should maintain the tools and equipment.
Safety equipment like fire extinguishers and fire sprinklers must be checked and maintained often to ensure they are still in working condition.
You should ensure that only qualified professionals do routine maintenance.
However, mishaps happen, and a maintenance professional or worker may, for instance, accidentally set off a fire sprinkler. You would have to call your municipality to handle the situation, but that wouldn’t be necessary if you have the right tools, such as our handy fire sprinkler shut off tool.
8. Details About Your Fire or Emergency Equipment/Systems
Your fire safety plan must include details about the fire or emergency equipment you have, such as fire sprinklers, extinguishers, gas masks, and fire sprinkler head shut off tools.
Your plan should mention the equipment type, their location, validity, and how to operate them.
9. Alternative Fire Safety Measures
It’s essential to have a backup plan in case the main plan for confining and ending a fire doesn’t succeed. You should indicate what other measures you could use to prevent, contain, control, and put out a fire.
10. Allowing the Fire Department Access to Your Building
You must show in your plan how the fire department can access your building and the areas around it in case a fire breaks out. This starts by ensuring your building address is displayed so people can see it easily.
You’ll also want to ensure that the entry points to your premises and the building itself are easily accessible. Doors to the building should not be closed with restrictive reinforcements like padlocks and chains, which slow down how fast firefighters can access the building.
If your building is in a crowded area or hidden from main passages by other buildings and structures, you should at least map out a clear path through which the firefighters will access your building and bring in their equipment such as ladders and water hoses.
Creating a fire safety plan might be a lengthy process, but it’s one you will be glad to complete because it can save people’s lives, not to mention saving you loads of money that would otherwise become ashes of wasted labour.
Your fire safety plan plays a crucial role in fire prevention and preparedness. Combining it with proper handling of your fire equipment yields excellent results.
At Shutgun, we help you avoid losses caused by accidental water damage from sprinkler systems. We can help find the right Shutgun for you to promptly disable a fire sprinkler head you might activate accidentally. You can use the tool to ensure the sprinklers eject water only when there is a fire.