Office Fire Prevention Strategies - Article describing workplace fire safety procedures including fire hazards, evacuation procedures, equipment grounding, building evacuation, fire alarms, smoke, toxic gases, and drop and role. Adjustable Bed, Memory Foam Mattress, Beds and Pillows - Natural Back Pain Relief Products - self-care products

Office Fire Prevention Strategies

The best time to think about fire safety is before a fire starts. Learn the location of fire escape routes and how to activate the fire alarm. Participate in practice fire drills on a regular basis. Become familiar with stairway exits - elevators may not function during a fire, or may expose passengers to heat, gas and smoke. Consider the following potential fire hazards:
  • Heat-producing equipment - copiers, work processors, coffee makers and hot plates - are often overlooked as a potential fire hazard. Keep them away from anything that might burn.

  • Electrical appliances can be fire hazards. Be sure to turn off all appliances at the end of the day. Use only grounded appliances plugged into grounded outlets (three prong plug).

  • If electrical equipment malfunctions or gives off a strange odor, disconnect it and call the appropriate maintenance personnel. Promptly disconnect and replace cracked, frayed, or broken electrical cords.

  • Keep extension cords clear of doorways and other areas where they can be stepped on or chafed and never plug one extension cord into another.

  • Do not allow combustible material (boxes, paper, etc.) to build up in inappropriate storage locations (near sources of ignition).

Through a program of scheduled inspections, unsafe conditions can be recognized and corrected before they lead to serious injuries. Take a few moments each day to walk through your work area. Look for items previously pointed out, such as objects protruding into walkways, file cabinets that are weighted toward the top or frayed electrical cords. Advise personnel in the area of the hazards and set about correcting them.

Emergency Preparedness

One result of the recent trend toward open office environments is that smoke from office fires is not contained or isolated as effectively as in less open designs. Open office designs allows smoke to spread quickly and the incorporation of many synthetic and other combustible material in office fixtures (such as furniture, rugs, drapes, plastic wastebaskets, and vinyl 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 in upholstery stuffing. Most burning materials can emit carbon monoxide. Inhalation of these toxic materials can severely hamper an office worker's chances of getting out of a fire in time. This makes it imperative for office workers to recognize the signal to evacuate their work area and know how to exit in an expedient manner.

The local emergency action plan will address potential emergencies that can be expected in your work area. For emergency evacuation, the use of floor plans or workplace maps that clearly show the emergency escape routes and safe or refuge areas should be included in the plan. All employees must understand what actions they are to take in the work area and assemble in a safe zone. All new employees should discuss how they should respond to emergencies with their supervisors shortly after starting work and whenever their responsibilities under the plan change. This orientation should include:
  • Identifying the individuals responsible for various aspects of the plan (chain of command) so that in an emergency confusion will be minimized and employees will have no doubt about who has authority for making decisions.

  • Identifying the method of communication that will be used to alert employees that an evacuation or some other action is required; as well as, how employees can report emergencies (such as manual pull stations, public address systems, or telephones).

  • Identifying the evacuation routes from the building and locations where employees will gather.

If you discover a fire or see/smell smoke, immediately follow these procedures:
  1. Notify the local Fire Department
  2. Notify CDC Physical Security or Building Security Force
  3. Activate the building alarm (fire pull station). If not available or operational, verbally notify people in the building.
  4. Isolate the area by closing windows and doors and evacuate the building, if you can do so safely.
  5. Shut down equipment in the immediate area, if possible.
  6. If possible and if you have received appropriate training, use a portable fire extinguisher to:
      * assist oneself to evacuate
      * assist another to evacuate
      * control a small fire
  7. Do not collect personal or official items; leave the area of the fire immediately and walk, do not run to the exit and designated gathering area.
  8. You should provide the fire/police teams with the details of the problem upon their arrival. Special hazard information you might know is essential for the safety of the emergency responders. You should not re-enter the building until directed to do so. Follow any special procedures established for your unit.
  9. If the fire alarms are ringing in your building, you must evacuate the building and stay out until notified to return. Move to your designated meeting location or upwind from the building staying clear of streets, driveways, sidewalks, and other access ways to the building. If you are a supervisor, try to account for your employees, keep them together and report any missing persons to the emergency personnel at the scene.

If an individual is overexposed to smoke or chemical vapors, remove the person to an uncontaminated area and treat for shock. Do not enter the area if you suspect that a life threatening condition still exists (such as heavy smoke or toxic gases). If CPR certified, follow standard CPR protocols. Get medical attention promptly.

If your or another person's clothing catches fire, extinguish the burning clothing by using the drop-and-roll technique, wrap victim in a fire blanket or douse victim with cold water (use an emergency shower if it is immediately available). Carefully remove contaminated clothing; however, avoid further damage to the burned area. Cover injured person to prevent shock. Get medical attention promptly.

Used with permission of Office of Health and Safety,
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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