The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) develops and implements more than 300 codes and standards that are intended to eliminate death, injury, property, and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards. NFPA 101: Life Safety Code was developed as a means to develop strategies that protect consumers based on building construction, protection, and occupancy features that greatly lessen the effects of fire and related hazards. For the scope of this article, we will specifically discuss the importance of maintaining clearly marked and readily identifiable entrance and exit ways that are free of debris, clutter, or obstruction.
A minor financial and time investment directed toward ensuring company-wide readiness can prevent loss of income, wages, and potentially life. There are several factors that must be considered when developing company Emergency Evacuation Plans and in regards to how Fire Exits are maintained.
- Have at least two means of escape remote from each other that are to be used in a fire emergency.
- Do not allow fire doors to be blocked or locked when employees are within the buildings, except where an approved alarm system is integrated into the fire door design.
- Ensure exit routes are clear and free of obstructions.
- Ensure exit routes are properly marked with signs designating exit paths.
- Ensure there is a written emergency action plan for the evacuation of employees that describes the routes to use and procedures to be followed by employees. The plan must be available for employee review. Procedures for accounting for all evacuated employees must be part of the plan.
- Ensure a plan exists for assisting employees and visitors with handicapping conditions.
- The plan must include procedures for those employees who must remain behind temporarily to shut down critical plant equipment before they evacuate.
- Ensure the means of alerting employees to a fire is part of the plan and an employee alarm system is available throughout the workplace and is used for emergency alerting for evacuation. The alarm system may be voice communication or audible signals such as bells, whistles, or horns.
- Ensure all employees are trained and know what is to be done in an emergency. Review the plan with new hires or newly assigned employees so they know the plan and their responsibilities.
We have all seen the aftermath and devastation of mass tragedies that could have been avoided, had a more focused effort been paid to ensuring readiness. Implementing the aforementioned steps proactively can help negate unnecessary loss and tragedy.