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Fire Safety Tips for Business Owners

Sage Bourgeois - Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Every fire has the potential to reach catastrophic levels. It is absolutely necessary for every business to have a fire safety plan in place in order to avoid injury, loss of life or substantial property loss. As a manager or business owner, it is your responsibility to ensure that your staff and employees are protected in the event of a fire. Here are a few components of a well prepared fire safety plan.

Fire Suppression Systems

Most businesses will employ an assortment of hand portable fire extinguishers as their main method of fire suppression. However, hand portable fire extinguishers are considered the most basic level of protection against a fire. Businesses such as restaurants and body shops are required to have a fixed fire suppression system installed to automatically extinguisher a fire caused by the kitchen's grease laden vapors or the flammable vapors created during the painting process. Regardless, each type of fire suppression system should be strategically placed in different areas of the office building or kitchen, as per the guidelines of NFPA (National Fire Protection Association). 

All businesses should have their fire suppression systems installed by a licensed and trained dealer in their area in compliance with fire codes. A licensed and authorized distributor will be able to install, test and maintain the system at the scheduled intervals required by the Louisiana State Fire Marshal.

Evacuation Plan

Your business must develop a solid fire safety plan that includes precise evacuation procedures for every person in the building. You must then train all your employees on how to follow the plan and effectively exiting the facility. It's fair to say hat even the most complete plan is useless if no one knows about it. Practice makes perfect, or so they say. When it comes to fire safety only perfect practice makes perfect. So, make sure that you conduct drills throughout the year where every staff member must execute the evacuation plan. This ensures that your employees know which exits to use, the number of steps required to reach the exit in case there are visibility problems, and become aware of new obstructions that may pop-up throughout the year. Two exits are better than one, if possible. This provides an alternate route in case one on of the exit routes becomes unsafe or obstructed. Train your employees to NEVER ignore a ringing fire alarm and to strictly follow the evacuation plan. The evacuation plan should be clearly posted and shared with your staff. The goal is for everyone to become an expert. Your plan must consider that disabled workers will require special instruction and provisions. Finally, make sure that you have a procedure for dealing with customers or outsiders visiting your business who are unfamiliar with your evacuation plan.

Company Policies

It is critical that your business has a culture that encourages good safety habits, in addition to having a solid plan and the right equipment. A simple example would be how each department deals with their electrical or computer equipment. Is the equipment kept clean of dust and debris? Is the area around the equipment sufficient to reduce heat buildup? Are electrical cords being bent or crushed under furniture or heavy equipment? Make it your company culture to unplug appliances when not in use. Have those who smoke do so in designated smoking areas and properly dispose cigarette butts. Always report any fire hazards to maintenance immediately.

ALL EMPLOYEES SHOULD:

  • Know the location of working fire extinguishers.
  • Learn how to use a fire extinguisher.
  • Review posted fire escape plans.
  • Practice fire evacuation plan.
  • Practice good house keeping.
  • Storage of chemicals and combustibles should be in approved containers, cabinets and areas with no smoking signs posted.
  • Smoking should be done in designated areas with approved containers for disposal readily available.
  • Be aware of electrical hazards.
  • Do not block or lock approved exits.
  • Maintain current records on items such as MSDS sheet, Fire Drills, etc.
  • Keep and review service records on sprinkler systems, standpipe systems and hood systems.
  • Post occupant capacity signs in visible locations.

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