Beware Common Mistakes
Talk to any fire consultant and they'll tell you stories about egregious breaches in life safety, such as painted sprinkler heads, locked or unmarked emergency exits, and water piping blocked from corrosion.
But it tends to be the small oversights that blossom into the biggest problems – measures like regular emergency drills, maintenance and inspections, and risk assessments. Are you guilty of any of these oversights?
1) Lazy Fire Extinguisher Inspections – Many organizations are passing this responsibility onto security guards or janitorial staff. Are you confident they know what they're looking for? Many have not received the necessary training to do so, yet their inspection reports are a legal record of your due diligence.
"This not only represents a gap in required training and the inspection process, but it's simply frightening from a corporate liability aspect," stresses Reid.
To make inspections more efficient, try using digital sensors. The device uses a smart pressure gauge to continuously check for pressure fluctuations and can also detect tampering or obstructions. You can also use bar codes – staff scan the extinguisher and inspection data is uploaded directly in your CMMS.
2) Forgotten Emergency Procedures – Review and test emergency procedures on an annual basis to ensure they reflectsdesign or occupancy changes, reminds Joshua Elvove, a consulting fire protection engineer and president of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers. They may also need to be expanded so they cover more than traditional plans do for fire or earthquakes.
"Any fire safety plan should include detailed instructions for occupants on fire and emergency procedures, including actions to take if there is an evacuation order or the need to shelter in place," says Reid.
Most owners forget that life safety plans are also used by building management during an emergency. Facility managers will brief emergency personnel on the nature of a crisis, provide occupant evacuation details, convey building access information, or help manually shut off key system components. An active life safety plan ensures details won't get overlooked.
"A properly completed emergency plan provides tactical information to help the fire department in rescue operations, property conservation efforts, and dealing with hazardous materials," Reid explains.
Your plans should also have a list of persons requiring assistance (PRAs) in the building – those who have mobility issues, cognitive limitations, or sensory impairments. This includes a pregnant woman, someone recovering from surgery, or an employee who temporarily has an ankle brace, Reid says.
Not only should you have a firm headcount each day of your occupants, but you should also be aware of any outside contractors who are in the building. In the case of the Imperial Foods Plants fire, one of the victims was a man resupplying a vending machine – it wasn't until his company reported his truck missing that the connection was made.