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Igniting interest in fire safety.


Almost daily you can pick up a newspaper and read about some of the millions of dollars lost to fire in the workplace. Often included in the unfortunate news is the terrible fact that someone was injured or killed in a fire. Investigation reveals that the tragedy could have been prevented by a fundamental fire safety program.

A fire safety program is worth its weight in gold. Managers in modern manufacturing facilities for the most part realize the importance of a comprehensive program that includes employee training and installation of fire protection systems and equipment. The return on investment for a sound program is avoiding a catastrophic, costly interruption of business and possible loss of employment for workers.

Employees are the key to any fire safety program and are your greatest asset if they're properly trained and educated in fire safety. Employee involvement fosters a unified effort to prevent fires and identify hazards. Training can be simple for those who direct evacuation in case of a fire and extensive for emergency responders who extinguish or attempt to control a fire until the fire department arrives.

Emergency planning. The first step in implementing a successful fire safety program is evaluating what is necessary and practical. Develop an emergency plan. Employers of 11 or more personnel are required to develop a written plan and tell employees what is expected of them should a fire occur.(1) Employees should be familiar with emergency exits and the fire alarm signal.

Review the plan periodically to keep it current since changes occur rapidly in the workplace. Including the functions of the municipal fire department in the detailed written plan is wise. Training for the fire department can include a walk-through tour to orient them with the facility layout, fire protection equipment, and the emergency alarm system.(2)

Plans should be disseminated to every individual who may be involved in a fire emergency. New employee orientation is a convenient time to train workers in fire safety and emergency evacuation producers. Supervisors should also review emergency plans periodically with employees.

Evacuation and emergency response teams. After initial training, employees' daily routines often cause them to either forget or become apathetic about fire safety and emergency procedures. You can offset such apathy through a continuous training program using special teams. Select key personnel by their location in a facility or their initiative and dedication to a fire safety program. Using one team member to direct evacuation for every 20 employees in an emergency is recommended.(3)

Evacuation team members provide valuable services besides checking for total evacuation of personnel in a fire. They can teach fire reporting procedures, identify fire hazards, and keep you informed of everything occurring in their work area. Good one-on-one communication helps resolve problems before a tragic incident occurs. Blocked aisles, inoperative emergency exit lights, and ceiling tiles that might prevent sprinkler activation should be some of the topics covered in a semiannual evacuation team training session.

Emergency response teams can also be developed to complement the evacuation teams. More in-depth training is required for employees who exhibit the fortitude and dedication to join an emergency response team. Comprehensive training for emergency responders should include use of portable fire extinguishers, operational shut-down of facility equipment, identification of hazardous materials, and a preliminary understanding of fire and protection systems and associated alarm systems.(4)

The security or safety department should determine the criteria for selecting team members. Ability and availability to respond during emergencies are important considerations and should conform to National Fire Protection Association standards.(5) The training program for responders should cover the use of self-contained breathing apparatus. Practice, lectures, hands-on use of equipment, and short informative video training films are good ways to educate team members.

Because of the diverse training methods required to educate emergency response teams and evacuation teams, annual all-around training sessions should be held. Such sessions refamiliarize both groups with their specific duties.

Team members should be allowed to ask questions and become acquainted with members from different organizations. Although an informal setting is advantageous, the evacuation plan and other topics associated with life safety should be covered formally.(6) Overhead slides, flip charts, and videos are all successful educational media for adult learners.

Security officer responsibilities. In today's manufacturing environment, security officers are knowledgeable, experienced, and versatile. In the absence of managerial authority, such as during off hours, officers must protect assets and function as emergency decision makers. To achieve a satisfactory level of competence, professional security officers must understand and be able to respond to emergency alarm systems.(7)

Control center security officers should be highly trained and proficient in following written procedures. As part of control center duties, officers should monitor and report alarm system malfunctions.(8) In case of a malfunction, they should take immediate corrective action and notify the proper authorities. Officers should also inform members of the emergency organization, if present, of the condition so they can implement contingency plans.

For security officers to understand the mechanics of an alarm and fire protection system, training should be conducted on a routine basis. Formal group training and individual inspection of the systems should also be incorporated into the fire safety program. Constantly checking sprinkler control valves, operating a fire pump, and checking an alarm system keeps employees familiar with equipment and procedures. In addition, such practice not only satisfies fire codes but also provides risk insurers with valuable records when a facility is inspected.(9)

Security officers are a valuable and integral part of a fire safety program. During off hours, officers should perform tours of the facility.(10) Training for tours should cover the physical layout of the facility and inspections of fire extinguishers to ensure they are accessible and appropriately located. Once familiar with the preliminaries, officers should be trained to check hazardous material storage areas to make sure they are properly bonded and grounded. Officers should also be trained to identify general hazards that could cause a electrical hazards that could cause a fire.

The focus of this plan is to implement a successful fire safety training program at a manufacturing facility. Training may be more extensive at large operations containing hazardous materials or conditions and less extensive at smaller operations, but the basic elements of asset protection and life safety are the same. All businesses should assess possible fire risks. Management should develop, approve, and disseminate emergency plans. The plans should identify the emergency alarm system, the duties of the emergency organizations, and, if applicable, restoration procedures to reduce the interruption of business.

Emergency plans, training, and inspections alone will not prevent fires, but they are the foundation of a comprehensive program. What makes a difference is employee interest in fire safety. Constant reminders and good communication between employees and the safety department is the key. Start with these ideas and expand on the principles to create a fire safety training program tailored to your business.

(1) 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1910.38.

(2) Accident Prevention Manual for Industrial Operations, Ninth Edition, National Safety Council, (Chicago, 1988), p. 328.

(3) 29 CFR 1910.38, subpart E #3.

(4) 29 CFR 1910.120.

(5) NFPA 27, "Recommendations for Organizations, Training and Equipment of Private Fire Brigades," National Fire Protection Association, (Quincy, MA: 1990).

(6) NFPA 101 Life Safety Code.

(7) NFPA 72D Proprietary Protective Signaling Systems.

(8) Uniform Fire Code 14.

(9) NFPA 13 Installation of Sprinklers.

(10) NFPA 601 Security Officer Tours.

(11) NFPA 10 Portable Fire Extinguishers.

PHOTO : Your employees are the key to your fire safety program. They are also your greatest asset if they undergo proper training as seen in the photo on the opposite page.

PHOTO : Hands-on use of equipment is a great way to educate team members. About the Author ... Robert J. Kling, CPP, is supervisor of plant protection, environmental health, and safety for the satellite systems operations of Honeywell Inc. in Phoenix, AZ. He is a member of ASIS and the American Society of Safety Engineers.
COPYRIGHT 1990 American Society for Industrial Security
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Author:Kling, Robert J.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Oct 1, 1990
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