Wednesday, February 15, 2012

On Office Fire Prevention Strategies

Learn the location of fireescape routes and how to activate the fire alarm. Participate in practice firedrills on a regular basis. Become familiar with stairway exits - elevators maynot function during a fire, or may expose passengers to heat, gas and smoke.

Through a program of scheduled inspections, unsafe conditions can be recognizedand corrected before they lead to serious injuries. Take a few moments each dayto walk through your work area. Look for items previously pointed out, such asobjects protruding into walkways, file cabinets that are weighted toward thetop or frayed electrical cords. Advise personnel in the area of the hazards andset about correcting them.
  • Heat-producing equipment - copiers, work processors, coffee makers and hotplates - are often overlooked as a potential fire hazard. Keep them away fromanything that might burn.
  •  Electrical appliances can be fire hazards. Be sure to turn off allappliances at the end of the day. Use only grounded appliances plugged intogrounded outlets (three prong plug).
  •  If electrical equipment malfunctions or gives off a strange odor, disconnectit and call the appropriate maintenance personnel. Promptly disconnect andreplace cracked, frayed, or broken electrical cords.
  • Keep extension cords clear of doorways and other areas where they can bestepped on or chafed and never plug one extension cord into another.
  • Do not allow combustible material (boxes, paper, etc.) to build up ininappropriate storage locations (near sources of ignition).

Emergency Preparedness

One result of the recent trend toward open officeenvironments is that smoke from office fires is not contained or isolated aseffectively as in less open designs. Open office designs allows smoke to spreadquickly and the incorporation of many synthetic and other combustible materialin office fixtures (such as furniture, rugs, drapes, plastic wastebaskets, andvinyl covered walls) often makes 'smoky' fires. In addition to being smoky,many synthetic materials can emit toxic materials during a fire.

For example, cyanide can be emitted from urethane which is commonly used inupholstery stuffing. Most burning materials can emit carbon monoxide.Inhalation of these toxic materials can severely hamper an office worker'schances of getting out of a fire in time. This makes it imperative for officeworkers to recognize the signal to evacuate their work area and know how toexit in an expedient manner.

The local emergency action plan will address potential emergencies that can beexpected in your work area. For emergency evacuation, the use of floor plans orworkplace maps that clearly show the emergency escape routes and safe or refugeareas should be included in the plan.

All employees must understand what actions theyare to take in the work area and assemble in a safe zone. All new employeesshould discuss how they should respond to emergencies with their supervisorsshortly after starting work and whenever their responsibilities under the planchange.

This orientation should include:
Identifyingthe individuals responsible for various aspects of the plan (chain of command)so that in an emergency confusion will be minimized and employees will have nodoubt about who has authority for making decisions.
Identifyingthe method of communication that will be used to alert employees that anevacuation or some other action is required as well as how employees can reportemergencies (such as manual pull stations, public address systems, ortelephones).
Identifyingthe evacuation routes from the building and locations where employees willgather

General guidancefor fires and related emergencies includes:

If you discover a fire or see/smell smoke,immediately follow these procedures:

Notifythe local Fire Department
NotifyCDC Physical Security or Building Security Force
Activatethe building alarm (fire pull station). If not available or operational,verbally notify people in the building.
Isolatethe area by closing windows and doors and evacuate the building, if you can doso safely.
Shut downequipment in the immediate area, if possible.
Ifpossible and if you have received appropriate training, use a portable fireextinguisher to:

assist oneself to evacuate;
assist another to evacuate; and
control a small fire.
Do notcollect personal or official items; leave the area of the fire immediately andwalk, do not run to the exit and designated gathering area.
Youshould provide the fire/police teams with the details of the problem upon theirarrival. Special hazard information you might know is essential for the safetyof the emergency responders. You should not re-enter the building untildirected to do so. Follow any special procedures established for your unit.
If thefire alarms are ringing in your building, you must evacuate the building andstay out until notified to return. Move to your designated meeting location orupwind from the building staying clear of streets, driveways, sidewalks, andother access ways to the building. If you are a supervisor, try to account foryour employees, keep them together and report any missing persons to theemergency personnel at the scene.
If anindividual is overexposed to smoke or chemical vapors, remove the person to anuncontaminated area and treat for shock. Do not enter the area if you suspectthat a life threatening condition still exists (such as heavy smoke or toxicgases). If CPR certified, follow standard CPR protocols. Get medical attentionpromptly.
If youror another person's clothing catches fire, extinguish the burning clothing byusing the drop-and-roll technique, wrap victim in a fire blanket or dousevictim with cold water (use an emergency shower if it is immediatelyavailable). Carefully remove contaminated clothing; however, avoid furtherdamage to the burned area. Cover injured person to prevent shock. Get medicalattention promptly.

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