October is Fire Prevention Month!
Fire prevention week is officially held from October 9 – October 15, 2022, but the entire month is dedicated to raising fire safety awareness in the U.S. and Canada. Did you know that the first Presidential proclamation of Fire Prevention Week was made in 1925 by President Calvin Coolidge? Officially, it is to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless and destroyed more than 17,400 buildings.
This month, RCM&D and SISCO want to remind you and your organization of fire safety best practices to create and maintain a safe workplace. In honor of fire prevention month, use the guidelines below to ensure your workplace is in compliance.
1. Fire Extinguishers: Ensure that all fire extinguishers are easily accessible. Fire extinguishers should be visually inspected monthly to verify that they have a proper charge. A trained and certified fire protection specialist should inspect fire extinguishers annually. All extinguishers are included in your monthly visual inspections — it’s helpful to create a map to ensure that none are missed.
2. Fire Sprinklers: As a general rule, sprinkler heads require 18 inches of clearance to function properly. Now would be a good time to visually inspect all areas of your building to make sure materials aren’t stored too high near sprinkler heads, which can interfere with a sprinkler’s spray pattern.
3. Hazardous Waste Disposal: Hazardous waste can include anything from oils to chemicals. Depending on the nature of your organization, you may have a detailed hazardous waste disposal program. At a minimum, ensure staff are discarding any hazardous waste in a metal container with a lid. Even flammable and combustible materials should be properly disposed of to prevent fire hazards.
4. Fire Protection Equipment Maintenance: Fire sprinkler systems are often the first line of defense in the event of a fire – but only if they are working properly. If your buildings are spinklered, make sure you have contracts in place for regular testing and maintenance. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) requires regular inspections of water-based fire protection systems by a licensed fire protection company:
- Quarterly sprinkler mechanical device inspections.
- Semi-annual vane and pressure switch devices.
- Annual complete fire sprinkler system test (including low flow tests, alarm tests, trip tests, deluge, pre-action valves, antifreeze concentration tests, and fire pump tests).
- To learn more, reference NFPA 25 or consult with a licensed fire protection company.
5. Storage of Chemicals, Flammable Materials or Other Hazardous Substances: Ensure that any chemical, flammable materials or other hazardous substances are stored in a safe place. Such items should be kept in a dry, secure closet or room with adequate ventilation. Additionally, it’s a good idea to keep fire protection equipment for flammable substances near the storage area.
6. Housekeeping: Keeping your buildings tidy isn’t just for aesthetic purposes. When there is a lot of clutter, especially flammable materials (paper, boxes, etc.), a fire can spread much faster. Clutter can also block exits, making it harder for people to evacuate the building.
7. Training: Depending on the occupancy of your building, it may be wise to train employees or occupants on how to react to a fire, and how to use a fire extinguisher or other fire protection devices.
8. Emergency Plan: Every building should have emergency and evacuation plans for occupants, which is a crucial aspect of fire prevention and planning. Employees or other occupants should know how to call for help, what to do, how to easily find the building address, and what the next steps should be. Ensuring these measures are in place can help to reduce the risk of fire spreading, which can ultimately lead to more damage.
9. Designated Smoking Areas: All properties should have a designated smoking area that is a safe distance away from the building. To help keep your building safe from accidental fires caused by lit cigarettes, ensure you provide safe options for people to properly extinguish and dispose of their cigarettes.
10. OSHA & NFPA Guidelines: OSHA and NFPA both provide a set of rules and guidelines to ensure fire protection and safety. Refer to these standards to ensure your organization meets all requirements.
Don’t Forget Your Smoke Alarms!
Smoke alarms are one of the best and most economical controls you can install to reduce your risk of dying in a fire. The National Fire Protection Agency recommends the following:
- All commercial buildings should have fire alarms on all floors and stairwells.
- Larger buildings will more than likely need more smoke alarms.
- Smoke alarms should be hardwired with a battery backup in case of a power outage.
- Smoke alarms should be tested monthly.
- Smoke alarms should be kept on the ceiling or high on a wall.
- Smoke alarms should be kept away from the kitchen to reduce false alarms (at least 10 feet from the stove).
- All smoke alarms should be replaced after 10 years.
Want to learn more? SISCO’s risk consultants are experienced professionals that can help ensure your buildings are safe workplaces. We can perform thorough risk assessments to identify hazards and offer solutions to mitigate these concerns.