The National Fire Protection Association put out some statistics about business office fires stating that between 2007 and 2011 U.S. fire departments responded to an average 3,340 fires at office properties per year for those five years. Peak times for the fires were between 12:00-2:00 PM – that’s peak lunchtime. Coincidence? Perhaps!
It may seem obvious to try and prevent fires in your home and office by not putting tin foil in the microwave, or not putting things on fire in the garbage, but those numbers don’t lie! It’s still very important to follow some basic steps and practices to prevent office fires and keep everyone safe.
Ensure Proper Fire Detectors are Installed
Chances are, if you work in an office building, the building had fire detection systems put in place that meet OSHA requirements. If your workplace uses a fire detection system that was designed and installed to meet the fire protection requirements of a specific OSHA standard, it must also comply with the “Fire Detection Systems” standard. [29 CFR 1910.164]
If you own smaller office space, you may have usual fire detectors which should be placed one every 30 feet or one detector per 500 sq. feet. Test them regularly to make sure they work and have plenty of battery life.
Follow Breakroom Rules & Etiquette
The breakroom has one of the biggest chances of having a fire in your office. You probably have a microwave, and if you’re lucky a toaster oven, and failing to use best practices for using those appliances can lead to sparks, electrical outages, and fire. Most of us might know the basics, like no metal or aluminum foil in the microwave. It’s also a safe bet to keep out paper bags which can catch fire, Chinese to-go containers that are held together with a handle or staples, and travel mugs or containers that are not marked microwave safe. When in doubt, don’t try putting something in there that you think could melt, explode, or start on fire.
Never Overload Power Outlets
At your desk, you’ve probably got your computer, your monitor, maybe a second monitor, a phone charger, a desk fan all plugged into a power strip. This might seem okay, the strip can probably handle it, but the more people around sharing a block of outlets or strips can not only dim lights, fry chargers and appliances, and lower power – they can short out and potentially spark a fire! It’s important to spread out high powered devices in different outlets, and maybe don’t run everything from one spot. When you all leave for the day, shut down computers, and unplug unnecessary appliances or chargers from the outlets.
Keep Windows & Walkways Clear
Every office should have a route employees know to take if and when a fire occurs. Many of these routes probably include taking the stairs before the window, but you need to prepare for every situation. Don’t put desks, chairs, tables, junk blocking walkways or windows. When setting up your office or tidying up, imagine if a fire were to happen right now – would everyone be able to get through the isles and walkways quickly and easily? If there are boxes on the floor, or in front of windows, probably not. In the extreme case, where the windows are the only exit – it’s essential to keep those areas clear at all times. Those minutes it may take to move a desk out of the way is the crucial time needed during an evacuation.
Learn How to Use a Fire Extinguisher
You probably walk by a fire extinguisher in the hallway at work every morning. But, do you know how to use it in an emergency?
It’s never recommended to fight the fire first, you always want to evacuate and get everyone out safely. But, the moment where you need to, it’s important for you and your team to know how to properly use a fire extinguisher. The acronym P.A.S.S. is used universally to know how to use the extinguisher.
P – Pull the pin
A – Aim the nozzle
S – Squeeze the handle
S – Sweep from side to side
Post this graphic in your office and make sure everyone knows the PASS method.
Run Regular Drills
National Fire Prevention Week is coming up on October 6-12, 2019. This week it’s generally recommended that businesses hold their annual fire drill. Now, one drill a year is the minimum requirement, but some agencies say two a year might be better. This allows for new employees to participate, and it’s a good refresher for everyone. Depending on the company’s risk assessment more may be needed. Being prepared in an emergency, and knowing exactly where to go, and what to do is the first line of defense against everyone being safe and unharmed.