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Fire Safety – It’s All in the Planning…and the Practicing

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The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 claimed the lives of approximately 300 people, destroyed over 3 square miles of property, and left more than 100,000 people homeless. Why the quick history lesson? The Fire Marshall’s Association of North America decided in 1911 to make the Great Chicago Fire anniversary a way to promote fire safety and help prevent future tragic events from occurring. This year’s Fire Prevention Week is October 6-12, and its theme is “Not Every Hero Wears a Cap. Plan and Practice Your Escape!” Employers can use this week to focus on fire safety at the workplace and at home.

In a typical home fire, you may have as little as 1-2 minutes to escape safely from the time the smoke alarm sounds. It’s not a lot of time, but with careful planning and practicing for such an event, it will save lives – at home and at work. Employers can help educate and train their staff on fire safety by using these helpful tips:
• Update signage as necessary – make sure fire escapes are well-marked and routes are posted throughout the facility.
• Make sure fire extinguishers are readily accessible and fully functioning. A fire extinguisher may go years without being used, so make sure fire extinguishers are tested on a regular basis.
• Make sure dangerous equipment or flammable materials are labeled (bilingual signage as well, if possible).
• Practice workplace fire drills on a regular basis and provide training, emails and pamphlets detailing safe fire practices and procedures.
• Encourage or offer incentives for completing online training courses or attending classes.
• Offer to cover training for certification trainings through NFPA, which include such trainings as electrical safety, fire protection, fire inspector and fire plan examiner.
• Provide specific training by inviting certified professionals to speak with employees or send your employees to relevant seminars.
For work and home fire safety, it’s really about the planning:
• Plan your escape route – map your home or workplace and show all available exits from rooms
• Test all smoke alarms on a regular basis – working smoke detectors cut the risk of dying in a home fire by half, and many workplace smoke detector systems can send out an automatic notification to the fire department if left unchecked after a certain amount of time.
• Choose an outside meeting place that is always stationary, like a tree, a building, a parking lot
• Make sure the plan is available to everyone – for the workplace, included in the employee handbook is a good place
• Practice fire drills – for the home, it is recommended to practice twice a year. For the workplace, it might be best to do it more often to train new employees

Employers are responsible for helping to ensure their workplace remains safe. Taking advantage of Fire Prevention Week to heighten the awareness of fire safety is a great way to educate your staff and to keep your employees safe.

Mr. Griffith has a received his bachelors degree in Environmental Health from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. He is a Certified Industrial Hygienist and president of Workplace Safety & Health Company. He has over 35 years of industrial hygiene, safety, loss control and consulting experience. Chemical monitoring, noise measurement, program development and management, risk assessment and computer management of health and safety data are areas of particular strength. Mr. Griffith is a member of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) at the local and national level. He is also active in the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE).

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