When a building is alight, staying calm and evacuating is the obvious advice, but ensuring it goes to plan, is much harder. It is why corporate buildings and large residential buildings have evacuation plans in place which are regularly practiced, shared, and (hopefully) followed. They help ensure if you ever need to go through the process of exiting the building in an emergency, your body can take over whilst your mind is racing.
But plans exist for more than just ensuring people exit quickly and safely. In fact, good plans will consider how to get fire crews in safely too to fight the fire. The easier it is to get in, the less the fire can spread and the more of your property and the items in it which can be saved.
Ultimately, however, the best plans are not evacuation plans, but plans which aim to minimise the chance of fire in the first place. In fact, the right knowledge and preventative measures, can help avoid the incidence of fire at your property. So what do you need to know? We are glad you asked – read on.
Follow the fire safety codes
Where relevant (we know this is not possible for many of you reading this), before starting the building process, consider all aspects of construction and follow the fire safety codes, including the type of materials, the primary structure, and the fire exits.
Make sure that your building has a fire-resistive rating, which meets the requirement of use, whether it is concrete, timber or steel Invest in quality and code-compliant passive fire protection solutions to strengthen your building materials’ fire resistance.
Keep in mind that Australian codes have amendments from time to time, so ensure to get regular updates for compliance.
Test alarms, sprinklers, and extinguishers
You might be surprised just how often fire upgrade orders are given and/or how many decision makers rush the process of complying with fire preventative requirements issued to them by relevant Fire authorities. Financial considerations are prioritised and compliance becomes a checklist item, rather than a priority. They fail to take into account that careless “compliance” of the requirements will not save them if a fire occurs.
Similarly, make sure all fire safety equipment is stored safely and is date compliant. Do not fall to the thinking that because you have equipment in place, that it works. Faulty smoke alarms and empty extinguishers are hazards that need to be repaired or replaced. They may only be useful once, but if they work to save lives and warn you to fire, then they will ultimately save you more than they cost.
Trust us when we say, if a fire inspector tells you to replace or test your smoke alarms and other fire safety apparatus in the building, follow their recommendation. You are not only saving your property, but also the lives of people occupying the building.
Turn off gas, heat, and electricity sources when not in use
Develop a habit of turning off everything after office hours. Not only will it save you money, but it lowers the cost of running the business. Sure not everything can be turned off, but think twice about what can be:
- Do you need to run the air conditioning at night?
- Are gas bottles contained in a storage shed?
- Can you put the hot water unit in the kitchen on a timer so it is not running overnight?
Another good tip is to ensure that you have your electrical equipment tested and tagged regularly. Faulty cabling is a massive cause of preventable fire.
Look for broken or frayed wirings
Don’t just test the equipment and wiring you see, as one of the common causes of fires is a broken or frayed cable wire in your building – damn pesty rats! What’s worse, they are often hidden behind walls or pipes so you don’t see them hanging anywhere.
Plan regular inspections and replacement measures for your property. Remember, it would only require a tiny amount of spark to start a fire especially in highly conducive areas like the paper copier section of an office. Don’t wait for that to happen.
Conduct tenant/employee training and awareness programs
Training and awareness programmes should be put in place so building occupants know what to do when there is a fire. Everyone plays a role in improving the level of safety in buildings so regular cooperative education programmes must be conducted.
Discuss escape routes, precautionary actions, and the importance of presence of mind when an incident happens. Educating people about the gravity of fire management and structured programmes to ensure that fire safety plans are met and executed well should be a priority and not just implemented for compliance.
It is also good to revisit your existing fire emergency procedure and engage tenants and employees in refresher courses. A little reminder will certainly go a long way!
Prevention is always better than cure.
As a building or business owner, it is highly advisable for you to put preventative measures in place and maintain them on a regular basis. Inspections and compliance are two of your important responsibilities, and it wouldn’t hurt to implement regular internal audits within your premises. As with Medicines, Fire prevention is better than the cure!
From following the applicable fire safety codes to conducting awareness training and testing protocols, these fire safety measures are designed to help you and your occupants to stay safe.
We cannot help with it all, but if you are looking to strengthen your fire prevention initiatives in your building, namely fire rating structural steel, then let’s have a chat to our team about our intumescent coatings or how our engineers can help assist you with the process of specification in the first place.
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Permax constantly update the documentations based on the new fire testing outcomes and change of standards and regulations. To ensure the documents you read are up-to-date, please contact the Permax technical team.