Common Fire Prevention Protocols

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Each year, over 350,000 residential building fires are reported to U.S. fire departments, along with more than 100,000 fires in nonresidential buildings like offices.

Common fire prevention protocols can prevent or limit much of the damage these fires cause. If you are a property manager, these five fire safety and prevention guidelines will help protect your building and tenants from fires.

5 Ways to Protect Your Building From Fires

Protect your workplace with these protocols:

1. Fire Safety Audits

A fire safety audit, also called a fire risk assessment, checks the likelihood of a fire starting at your building and how thoroughly the building and its occupants are equipped with fire safety and prevention measures. You can conduct a fire safety audit by following these four steps:

  1. Check for hazards: Ask yourself, “If a fire were to occur in this building, what would the most likely causes be?”. A fire can happen when a source of ignition, a flammable material and oxygen come together. For example, open flames or electrical equipment could be hazards. This is also the time to check for compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) fire safety standards.
  2. Assess the risks: Estimate the likelihood of each hazard resulting in an actual fire. You can consult a reliable fire statistics database to help inform your assessments.
  3. Reduce the risks: For each hazard, take measures to reduce the likelihood that it will result in a fire. For example, replace any faulty electrical and heating equipment immediately. Move any flammable materials away from spaces where open flames are used or find ways to protect them.
  4. Implement precautions: Prepare equipment and protocols to detect, stop or limit fire damage. These could include tools like fire extinguishers as well as training procedures.

Conducting a fire risk assessment and putting precautions in place is an excellent approach to fire safety. The rest of this article will unpack more specific protocols and resources that can help you improve the fire safety of your building.

2. Smoke Detectors and Alarms

Smoke detectors and fire alarms are vital to rapid fire detection. If a fire does occur, these tools can recognize it and trigger an automated response like a sprinkler system. They can also alert occupants to take immediate action, such as using fire extinguishers, evacuating and calling the fire department. 

You should check smoke detectors and alarms and change their batteries at least once a year.

3. Sprinkler Systems

A sprinkler system automatically releases pressurized water to control or extinguish flames when it detects heat that indicates a fire. An ordinary sprinkler system is set to trigger at around 155 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Schedule maintenance for your sprinkler system twice a year.

4. Fire Extinguishers

Ensure you have enough fire extinguishers of the right grade and class positioned strategically in your building. A single extinguisher may be enough for a small building, but larger buildings will need more to meet OSHA requirements.

Make sure you and your occupants know how to use a fire extinguisher by following the PASS system:

  • P: Pull the safety pin.
  • A: Aim at the fire's base.
  • S: Squeeze the handle.
  • S: Sweep at the fire from side to side.

Inspect fire extinguishers monthly for visible damage or wear. Have a professional inspect their contents and internal pressure annually.

5. Building Evacuation Strategies

Occupants may have as little as two minutes to escape a building once a fire starts. A sound evacuation strategy is essential for fire safety:

  • Ensure the building has an adequate distribution of working smoke alarms so occupants know when to evacuate.
  • Plan the quickest route occupants can take to safely exit the building from any point.
  • Communicate this plan clearly to occupants.
  • Arrange evacuation drills twice a year to ensure all are prepared to follow the strategy.

Once safely outside, tenants can call their local fire department for assistance and remain outside while waiting. It is not safe to return for possessions or to help others. Trained firefighters can attempt to rescue anyone trapped inside.

Workplace Safety and OSHA Compliance

OSHA provides guidelines to ensure employees have a safe and healthy work environment. This includes policies for fire safety. It is legally obligatory for employers to comply with OSHA's standards.

Accountability for OSHA compliance in an office building usually falls on the employer, but property managers can help create spaces that facilitate compliance. This attracts good tenants and keeps people and buildings safe. 

While they apply to workplaces, many of OSHA's guidelines also provide relevant information for keeping residential buildings safe.

Here are eight key points from OSHA's fire safety and prevention guidelines to get you started:

  1. Have a written fire prevention plan that notes fire hazards in the building and how they can be controlled. It should also note maintenance plans for safety equipment and the people responsible for leading hazard control and scheduling maintenance. This plan will become the go-to fire safety resource for your building.
  2. Have enough fire extinguishers of the correct types to match the fires that could occur from hazards on your premises. Clearly mark extinguishers. 
  3. Inspect and maintain fire extinguishers regularly.
  4. Install a fire alarm system and maintain it consistently.
  5. Plan an evacuation route that makes it possible to exit the building quickly from any point, usually within two minutes. Ensure the route is not obstructed. Protect it with fire-resistant materials if possible. Check that it is accessible to people with disabilities.
  6. Mark fire exits clearly.
  7. Facilitate training and drills for the building's occupants. Include emergency exit drills and fire extinguisher practice.
  8. Inspect and maintain heating, electrical and gas equipment to reduce risks.

You should consult OSHA's complete standards for fire safety to see whether your buildings align with them. 

Enhancing Fire Safety With Bunker Gear Specialists

Bunker Gear Specialists is your partner for fire safety equipment and services. BGS has provided industry-leading, hands-on firefighting and safety solutions since 1998. We offer the following products and services to make your building safer:

Fire departments trust BGS to provide reliable fire safety solutions when it matters most. You can trust our equipment to improve your building's fire safety. Order the fire prevention and safety products your building needs from our online store and get free U.S. shipping on orders $500 or more. Contact us today for a free quote or answers to your questions about our fire safety solutions.