Some aspects of a business fire safety plan are common practice—posting emergency exit routes, creating an accountability strategy, etc. But these strategies focus only on how to deal with a fire once it breaks out. Instead, Vermont businesses should be focused on preventing fires from starting in the first place, or stopping fires before they become emergencies.
There are several important elements missing from many Vermont business fire safety plans that focus on protection and prevention. Here are 6 important elements you need to add to your company’s fire safety plan today.
1. Start with a hazard assessment
Before you create a business fire safety plan for your business, you need to schedule a professional hazard assessment. During the assessment, a fire protection professional walks with decision-makers through your facility and identifies fire and life safety risks that are putting your employees and your business in danger. Then you will receive a complete plan for mitigating those risks.
Each industry and type of building faces different fire hazards. By starting your business fire safety plan with a hazard assessment, you’re taking the first crucial step in protecting your business and your team.
2. Perform the necessary maintenance and equipment checks
Another key element of fire protection planning is ensuring that all of your life safety equipment—from fire extinguishers to emergency lights—is in peak operating condition. Business owners should be familiar with these equipment maintenance requirements and make the proper arrangements for completing them. Some equipment checks can be performed in-house at your company, while more comprehensive maintenance needs to be performed by a trained technician.
Complying with these requirements will most likely mean partnering with a fire protection company. Be sure that your chosen partner is documented within your fire safety plan, including the contact information for your account rep and the services they’ve been contracted to perform.
3. Familiarize employees with fire and life safety equipment
When we at FireProTec enter a business to conduct workplace fire safety training, we often ask the employees where the fire extinguishers are located. They almost never know.
Don’t rely solely on an employee handbook or written plan to give your team members the fire safety information they need. While it’s important to document these processes, it is even more crucial to show employees—in person—the equipment that is in place to protect them.
All employees should know the exact locations of fire extinguishers, fire suppression systems, building alarms, emergency exits, and any other protection equipment your building has in place.
4. Conduct live fire extinguisher training
Employee fire extinguisher training is not only required by law, it is one of the best ways to prevent incipient-stage fires from getting out of control. Fire extinguisher training is about more than simply fulfilling OSHA mandates—it is about empowering your employees to make their own decision whether to fight a fire, or to get themselves out.
Employee fire extinguisher training familiarizes your team with all of the risks and responsibilities of incipient-stage fire-fighting, and allows them to discharge a real fire extinguisher in a controlled environment. Live training should be written into your fire safety plan.
5. Document the process for alerting others of emergencies
Your team members need to understand your company’s expectations for reporting a fire or other emergency situation. While you certainly won’t require your employees to fight an incipient-stage fire if they don’t feel comfortable doing so, they should be expected to alert the rest of the building occupants to the danger.
Your fire safety plan should include regularly familiarizing your employees with the company’s fire reporting policies, including:
- Shouting “fire!”
- Pulling building fire alarms (even if the alarms are monitored)
- Opening alarmed emergency doors
- Calling 9-1-1
6. Regularly repeat training
You can create the most detailed and complete fire safety plan in the world, and yet in a real emergency situation, the whole plan could be thrown out the window—unless your employees are consistently trained.
Your business fire safety plan should specify a distinct training schedule. All new employees should be required to undergo training and become aware of fire protection equipment. Additionally, you should plan on at least annual training for all employees. Consistent training ensures that the right response is immediate and second-nature.
You may be wondering why none of the items on this list involved creating procedures for evacuations, head counts, etc. Vermont’s business fire safety plans need to focus on policies and procedures that help prevent fires from starting or getting out of control. Evacuation plans and employee meeting locations are standard practice. Now it’s time for businesses to turn up the heat on fire prevention and preparedness.