I was recently asked by a local fire department to help them come up with a strategy to help the deaf and hard of hearing population know when there is a fire in their home, and that got me to thinking about this next blog post.
A couple years ago I talked to a couple firefighters I know from work, and they gave me some great advice about developing a fire escape plan that can be used by the disabled community in any high rise building anywhere in the world.
One of the firefighters said there are several things to keep in mind if you are trapped in a high rise during a fire. “You should know exactly where you are in the building (i.e. which stairwell).” He said if you are trapped in a stairwell, keep the door closed to prevent smoke from entering.
He also said you should have cell phone access and keep 9-1-1 on speed dial for easy access. “9-1-1 contact is paramount if you are trapped in a fire. You should keep them on the line until someone is physically there to assist you.”
Another guy I talked to said that a good fire evacuation plan should contain several things:
- Emergency exit or escape routes and whether the entire building should evacuate or, where approved, only certain areas or floors.
- Procedures for employees who must remain to operate critical equipment before evacuating.
- Procedures for accounting for employees and occupants after evacuation has been completed.
- Identification and assignment of personnel responsible for rescue or emergency medical aid.
- The preferred and any alternative means of notifying occupants of a fire or emergency.
- The preferred and any alternative means of reporting fires and other emergencies to the fire department or designated emergency response organization.
- Identification and assignment of personnel who can be contacted for further information or explanation of duties under the plan.
- A description of the emergency voice/alarm communication system alert tone and preprogrammed voice messages where provided.
The second guy said that a good fire safety plan should include the following:
- The procedure for reporting a fire or other emergency.
- The life safety strategy and procedures for notifying, relocating, or evacuating occupants.
- A list of major fire hazards associated with the normal use and occupancy of the premises, including maintenance and housekeeping procedures.
- Identification and assignment of personnel responsible for maintenance of systems and equipment installed to prevent or control fires.
- Identification and assignment of personnel responsible for maintenance, housekeeping and controlling fuel hazard sources.
Site plans should include:
- The occupancy assembly point.
- The locations of fire hydrants.
- The normal routes of fire department vehicle access.
Floor plans should include where the following are located:
- Primary evacuation routes.
- Secondary evacuation routes.
- Accessible exit routes.
- Areas of refuge.
- Manual fire alarm boxes.
- Portable fire extinguishers.
- Occupant-use hose stations.
- Fire alarm enunciators and controls.
If rescue is necessary:
- If you are trapped in your office by smoke and flames, do not panic.
- Seal cracks around doors with damp clothing.
- Call your local fire department, even if they are already on the scene. Tell them exactly where to find you.
- Open a window. Do not break the windows. You may need to close them later.
- Stay near the window where you can signal for help with a flashlight, light cloth, or sheet of paper.
Out of the office:
- In any fire, the most important thing is to protect lives. Follow your emergency action plan and exit quickly.
- Crawl low under smoke. Keep your head 12-24 inches from the floor. Heavier toxins can gather in a thin layer below 12 inches.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a damp cloth.
- Close doors behind you, but do not lock them.
- Never use an elevator under any circumstances.
- Most enclosed stairwells in buildings over two stories are fire-resistant. Walk quickly but carefully down. Never go back up the stairs.
- After exiting, go to the safe meeting place in the Emergency Action Plan (EAP). A head count should be taken there.
- Once you are out of a burning building, never go back inside. If you know of coworkers who may be inside, get that information to firefighters who are trained to perform rescues.
They said it is a good idea to talk with coworkers about having a partner to help you get out during a fire. “It’s a good idea to have an escape partner during a fire because they can go get help immediately, especially if your cell phone dies and you lose contact with the 9-1-1 operator,” one of the guys said. They also said it’s a good idea to have a couple of backup people in case your primary escape partner is absent on the day of a fire or drill.