HOW TO CREATE A FIRE EVACUATION PLAN FOR YOUR BUSINESS
When a fire threatens your employees and business, chaos and confusion can reign.
Construction fires often move so quickly that workers are forced to do what they can to survive. When an office tower in Sydney, Australia caught fire earlier this year, construction workers on scaffolding had to scramble to safety when the exterior of the building was transformed into a wall of flames.
Wildfires can also be a threat if they jump containment efforts or change direction. Damage to physical structures can run into the millions.
While fires themselves are dangerous enough, the threat can be compounded by panic and chaos if your company is unprepared. The best way to prevent this from happening is to have a detailed and rehearsed fire evacuation plan.
Here is our 7-step plan to help guide you through creating a fire evacuation plan for your business:
- Imagine Various Scenarios
When planning your business fire evacuation plan, start with some basic questions to explore the primary threats your business may face in the case of a fire.
Where might fires break out?
The National Fire Protection Association points out that during the five-year period from 2007-2011, an average of 3,340 fires occurred in office properties per year. Most of those fires were caused by cooking equipment, intentional acts, and electrical malfunctions. A later analysis by the U.S. Fire Administration confirmed that cooking was the leading cause of nonresidential building fires for the past 10 years.
How and why would they start?
Take some time to brainstorm reasons a fire would threaten your business. Do you have a kitchen in your office? Are people using portable space heaters or personal fridges? Do wildfires threaten your location(s) each summer? Make sure you understand the threats and how they might find their way to your business.
Since cooking fires are at the top of the list for office properties, put “house rules” in place about microwaving and other office kitchen appliances. Forbid hot plates, in-office microwaves, and other cooking appliances.
What if “X” happens?
Make “X” business specific, such as “What if we are evacuated by authorities and we have fifteen refrigerated trucks loaded with our weekly ice cream deliveries?” “What if we have to abandon our headquarters with very little notice?” It’s a good idea to have a list of “What if X happens” questions and your answers. Thinking through different scenarios moves a fire from something no one imagines into the collective consciousness of your business.
- Establish roles and responsibilities
When a fire emerges and your business must evacuate, employees will look to their leaders for reassurance and guidance. Create a clear chain of command that states who has the authority to order an evacuation.
Here are the main roles you should consider creating as part of your fire evacuation plan:
Chief fire warden. This employee has overall responsibility for a fire event, including planning and preparation.
Assistant fire warden. This person should use the mass alert system to alert employees, call the fire department, and gather reports.
Route guides. Route guides play an important role in making sure that routes are clear and evacuation is orderly and calm.
Fire extinguishers. Some people want to “fight the fire” with a portable fire extinguisher. You never want to fight a fire that has left its source of origin. If you can’t bring a fire under control in 30 seconds, then stop, close the door, and escape to safety.
Floor monitors. The floor monitor is the last person out after making sure the area is clear.
- Create a communication plan
During a fire drill, designate someone (like the assistant fire warden) whose primary job is to disseminate information to employees, customers, news media, and where applicable, other entities such as the community, organizational management, suppliers, transportation partners and government officials.
This person should be carefully selected. They need to be reliable, present, and able to react quickly. They may have to work out of an alternate office if the primary office is affected by fire (or the threat of fire). You should also train a back-up as this is a critical position.
Once you have identified this critical role, you need to provide them with a redundant, multi-channel communication system. Reacting to a fire can be very chaotic. People may not have access to their normal channels of communication, they may forget to check, and networks could fail. Being able to communicate through email, phone, text, and mobile app will ensure your communication gets the broadest distribution possible. An intuitive tool like AlertMedia makes this seamless.
Once that tool is in place, your communications team will need to let the appropriate stakeholders know how the situation impacts the business, what actions they should take, next steps and more.
- Plan and map routes
A good fire evacuation plan for your business will include primary and secondary escape routes. Clear signs should mark all the exit routes. For large offices, make multiple maps and post them so employees know the evacuation routes.
Once your people are out of the building, where do they go?
Designate an assembly area for employees to gather. The assistant fire warden should be at the assembly area collecting a head count and providing updates. If the fire warden is using AlertMedia to communicate he/she can use the survey feature to quickly determine who is safe and who is still unaccounted for.
Make sure the escape routes and the assembly area can accommodate the expected number of employees who will be evacuating.
- Know your tools and inspect them
When was the last time you inspected those dusty office fire extinguishers? We thought so.
The National Fire Protection Association recommends refilling reusable fire extinguishers every 10 years and replace disposable ones every 12 years.
While you’re at it, make sure you have up-to-date and operable:
? Fire alarms
? Emergency lighting
? Fire doors (if applicable)
? Escape ladders (if applicable)
- Rehearse fire evacuation
If you have children in school, you know that they practice “fire drills” often, sometimes monthly.
Because regular rehearsals minimize confusion and show the kids through repetition how the fire drill should work. A safe outcome is more likely to occur with calm students who know what to do in the event of a fire.
Adults should do the same!
Key fire evacuation leaders should meet quarterly and plan for an annual or semi-annual full rehearsal of the company fire evacuation plan. Here is a detailed guide on how to conduct a fire drill at work.
For bonus points make a mini-fire evacuation drill part of a new employee’s onboarding process.
- Follow-up and reporting
Your company’s leadership needs to be communicating and tracking progress in real-time. Fires move quickly, and seconds could make a difference.
Surveys are an easy way to get status updates from your employees. The assistant fire marshal can simply send out a survey asking for a status update and monitor responses in real time to see who’s safe. Most importantly, the assistant fire marshal can see who hasn’t responded, and direct resources to assist those in need.
The biggest challenge you will face is getting reports from people who aren’t in the office. There’s inevitably going to be someone out sick or on vacation. These people obviously won’t be at the rally point so you may start to wonder whether they made it out of the office safely. Make sure you include response options such as “I’m not in the office today” in your surveys to account for this and clarify everyone’s situation.
* Courtesy of https://www.alertmedia.com/blog/fire-evacuation-plan-for-your-business/
Should Your Employees Be Certified in First Aid and CPR?
No one wants to imagine a medical emergency in the workplace, but unfortunately they do happen. Being prepared means more than having an office first-aid kit on hand — it means having designated employees who are trained to respond to a variety of emergency situations.
Training employees on what to do in an emergency can mean all the difference if the worst happens. Even short of such crises, emergency-response training comes with other advantages, from increased employee engagement to compliance with Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) requirements.
Providing first-aid training and the opportunity to become certified in CPR are ways of engaging your employees and showing that you take their health and well-being seriously.
While that display of dedication may be able to improve employee satisfaction with your organization, it can also help build camaraderie and morale. The New York Times reports that CPR courses at financial firms have led to higher levels of trust, better working relationships and reduced stress among employees.
It’s also a skill your employees can take with them, whether home to their families or into their communities.
* Courtesy of https://thebenefitsguide.com/should-your-employees-be-certified-in-first-aid-and-cpr/
Be Alert with A Weather Radio!
One of the best precautions you can take is to purchase a good quality weather radio. A weather radio is designed to alert you to dangerous weather situations, such as an approaching tornado. It allows you to be warned ahead of approaching storms providing you time to seek shelter. A weather radio is the most reliable source for weather alerts. Weather radios have made many advancements over the years and are very affordable. Most basic weather radios average around $30 and can be programmed to only alert you for the weather alerts you choose.
When shopping for a weather radio, look for the following key features.
- Reviewable alerts (you can scroll through alerts and turn off the siren for alerts you do not wish to hear).
- Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) alert programming (alerts when specific counties are threatened, ensuring you only receive alerts for your county).
- Ease of programming.
If you need help programming your weather radio, you can always contact your local National Weather Service Office or for additional information, including county codes for your state, visit the NOAA Weather Radio website at www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr.
Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) are emergency messages sent by authorized government-alerting authorities through your mobile carrier. Government partners include local and state public safety agencies, FEMA, the FCC, the Department of Homeland Security, and the National Weather Service. Alerts received at the right time can help keep you safe during an emergency. With WEA, alerts can be sent to your mobile device when you may be in harm's way, without need to download an app or subscribe to a service.
WEA may be used to share:
- Extreme weather warnings.
- Local emergencies requiring evacuation or immediate action.
- AMBER Alerts.
- Presidential Alerts during a national emergency.
A WEA will look like a text message (example shown here). The WEA message will typically show the type and time of the alert, any action you should take, and the agency issuing the alert. The message will be no more than 90 characters. Visit www.ctia.org/consumer-resources/wireless-emergency-alerts to learn more about Wireless Emergency Alerts, including how to determine if your mobile device is WEA-capable.
*Courtesy of Restoration Newsline Vol 30, Iss 7
Is my home susceptible to water damage?
Water damage is a huge hazard and happens a lot more often than you might realize. It can happen to a home, old or new, at any time and can result in many different problems, leaving the homeowner in a (literal) mess. Any sort of leak, a leaky pipe or roof, can cause serious structural damage and, if not properly handled and repaired, this damage can worsen over time.
Many property damages caused by water and leaks could have been avoided. According to the American Insurance Association, over 90% of these issues could have been avoided had proper care and maintenance been given to small known problems. Here’s the problem: many people believe that they can fix water damage or a leaky roof or pipe on their own. This can certainly be true for small problems and damage, but what damage you can see is typically just the tip of the iceberg. Most damage is present deep in the walls of your house and leads to serious problems like structural issues that only a professional should diagnose and repair before the integrity of your home is seriously compromised.
Not only is your home susceptible to structural damage, but mold can quickly begin growing if there has been water damage. Health problems, both big and small, can be caused by some types of mold. So it’s best to not delay remediation and get the problem fixed before it gets too serious. Delaying repairs could end up costing a lot more money and could be hazardous health-wise.
However, the trouble with spotting signs of water damage can be tricky as it is not always apparent. Some cases are obvious but other times, it can be more gradual, subtle, and hidden.
Here are just a few things to be on the lookout for signs of water damage:
- Dark or Wet Spots
Keep your eye out for discoloration on the ceiling and the interior and exterior walls of your home. These watermarks are usually quite telling.
- Cracking, Bubbling, or Flaking
Water damage could be present if the drywall or paint on your ceiling or walls is beginning to crack, bubble, or flake.
- Pooling Water or Puddles
Leaks or ongoing drips can lead to pools of water. If a puddle comes back once you’ve cleaned it up that could mean you have a leak.
- Sounds of Running Water
Sometimes you won’t be able to see water damage, but you might be able to hear it. If you hear a dripping sound, a creaking floor, or even rushing or running water. Though, these sounds can also indicate a perfectly functioning system. So listen for changes in sound.
- Increase in Utility Bills
Have you noticed your water bill suddenly spiked? This could be a sign of a hidden leak.
- Damp, Musty, or Moldy Smell
Damp, musty, or moldy smells can be a big indicator of water damage. Dampness has such a distinct smell, it’s hard to miss. This smell is often accompanied by the smell of mold and, unfortunately, water damage.
If you suspect that there has been water damage in your home, it is best to call a professional right away! SERVPRO of Paulding/Polk Counties is on call 24/7 to help you make it “Like it never even happened.”
* Courtesy of https://hudsondouglaspublicadjusters.com/signs-of-water-damage-in-your-home/
Do I need flood insurance for my home?
Standard homeowners and renters insurance does not cover flood damage. To protect your home, be sure to understand the risk of flooding and what your insurance options are. You will need flood insurance if you live in a designated flood zone. But flooding can also occur in inland areas and away from major rivers. Flood insurance is available for renters as well as homeowners, but a special policy is required as flood insurance—like earthquake insurance—is not part of standard homeowners coverage. Flood policies are provided by the federal government and some private insurers. The federal government provides flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). While they are underwritten by the government, NFIP policies are generally sold through private insurance agents. In some areas, primary flood insurance may be available through private insurers. However, the NFIP provides only actual cash value coverage for your possessions. That means you'll get the current value of your possessions, which may be considerably less than the cost you'll incur to replace them, especially if they are older and have depreciated in value.
* Courtesy of https://www.iii.org/article/do-i-need-flood-insurance-for-my-home
Do You Have Dirty Ducts?
Did you know your ventilation system is often the biggest culprit in poor indoor air quality? Inspecting the ductwork in your facility or home should be a high priority. In most cases, the HVAC system has been operating for some time without much attention. Dirty ducts can circulate odors, contaminants such as mold and irritating dust throughout your building or home.
A routine part of SERVPRO® of Paulding/Polk Counties' service is inspecting the heating, ventilation and air conditioning unit (HVAC). Keeping the HVAC and ductwork clean can potentially extend the life-span of the equipment by allowing it to operate at peak condition, which may help save you money. Duct cleaning may not always be necessary. SERVPRO® of Paulding/Polk Counties will inspect your HVAC system and ductwork and make recommendations about the best way to address any indoor air quality concerns. This inspection can help save you money and provide peace of mind on the health of your HVAC system and ductwork.
In some circumstances, such as after a fire, smoke or suspected mold growth, duct cleaning becomes an essential part of the cleanup process. In these cases, SERVPRO® of Paulding/Polk Counties can often restore the HVAC system and ductwork to pre-damage condition.
If you have a fuel-burning furnace, stove or fireplace, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends they be inspected for proper functioning and be serviced before each heating season to protect against carbon monoxide poisoning.
The SERVPRO® Duct Cleaning System is proven and cost-efficient. Unlike the majority of duct cleaning services, SERVPRO® of Paulding/Polk Counties uses a portable ventilation and air duct cleaning system to examine ductwork and make a clean sweep, removing years of dust and grime.
- The process begins by using patented equipment, including a roto-scraper, which automatically adapts to the duct’s shape and diameter while traveling through the duct, removing debris and filth before vacuuming begins.
- Next, a powerful push-pull air delivery and collection system transfers the debris from the ducting to a 16-gallon container.
- Air is filtered through a HEPA filtration system, removing 99.97 percent of the particles in the airstream. HEPA filters capture debris and keep the indoor environment clean.
- As an optional process, a sealant or coating product may be sprayed to address odor or microbial concerns.
- Filters will either be cleaned or replaced to remove odor and dirt.
For more information on duct cleaning, or to schedule an appointment, contact SERVPRO® of Paulding/Polk Counties today.
*Courtesy of Restoration Newsline Vol 30, Iss 4
Destroy Odors with Deodorization
Even a small fire can cause odors for years to come if the affected areas are not properly cleaned and deodorized. Fire, smoke and soot damage in your home or business can create unpleasant and potentially permanent problems.
As various materials burn, the smoke produced travels throughout the structure, leaving odorous residues and deposits on surfaces and in hard-to-reach places. Unless fast, professional action is taken, these residues and deposits can cause permanent damage to contents and may result in resurfacing odors.
With technicians certified by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration (IICRC), SERVPRO® of Paulding/Polk Counties professionals provide specialized services that can rid your home or business of offensive odors left by fire or smoke damage. SERVPRO® of Paulding/Polk Counties professionals do not cover up lingering odors with a fragrance; they seek out and remove the source of the odor. Once the source is found, SERVPRO’s own proprietary line of cleaning products is used to treat and prevent the odor from returning. Any restorable item in affected areas will also be professionally cleaned and deodorized, including furniture, draperies and upholstery, electronics, art, flooring, walls, ceilings, HVAC air ducts and more.
Ask SERVPRO® of Paulding/Polk Counties to explain the various deodorization methods available and which will work best for you.
If you or a customer suffer a fire damage or some other accident and require deodorization services, contact SERVPRO® of Paulding/Polk Counties. Whether it’s fire, water, or mold damage or just a stubborn odor that refuses to go away, we’ll help make it “Like it never even happened.”
*Courtesy of Restoration Newsline Vol 30, Iss 4
The Importance of Cleaning Dryer Vents
According to FEMA, failure to clean home dryers causes 34% of home dryer fires. Home dryer fires cause $35 million in property loss and can even cause injury or death.
To reduce the risk of these fires happening in your or your insured’s home or business, SERVPRO® of Paulding/Polk Counties can help clean dryer vents and ducts that may have lint buildup.
Other tips for keeping your dryer vents clean from the National Fire Protection Agency include cleaning the lint filter before and after each load and making sure the outdoor vent flap will open and is not restricted by snow, a bird’s nest or other potential obstacles.
For more information on proper cleaning dryer vents contact SERVPRO® of Paulding/Polk Counties at (770) 505-0555.
*Courtesy of Restoration Newsline Vol 30, Iss 4
Your Belongings and Water Damage
Water damage affects not only the structure of your house but also your belongings. SERVPRO of Paulding/Polk Counties understands that your home is more than a structure; your family’s furniture, clothing, keepsakes, and other belongings help transform a house into a home.
If You Have Questions or Need Help,
Call Us Today – (770) 505-0555
SERVPRO of Paulding/Polk Counties specializes in restoring contents damaged by fire, water, or mold. Our expertise and “restore” versus “replace” mentality can help you save money while preserving precious keepsakes that can’t be replaced. We pretest your contents to determine what items can be restored back to their condition before the water damage. We utilize several methods of cleaning your contents, including the following:
- Dry Cleaning - Used for cleaning light residues or to pre-clean prior to wet cleaning.
- Wet Cleaning - An effective cleaning method for removing moderate to heavy residues.
- Spray and Wipe -Effective for items that can’t withstand wet cleaning.
- Foam Cleaning - Used for upholstery fabrics that might shrink or bleed if wet cleaned.
- Abrasive Cleaning - Involves agitation of the surface being cleaned.
- Immersion Cleaning - Contents are dipped into a bath of the cleaning product.
If your home requires extensive restoration or cleaning, SERVPRO of Paulding/Polk Counties can conduct an organized, efficient move-out of the affected area. A move-out will provide several benefits, including the following:
- A quicker remodeling process
- Protecting items from potential damage
- Protecting contents from further on-site damage
When restoration is completed, we will work with you to coordinate the move-in according to your needs. The services offered upon move-in may depend on your insurance coverage.
Water-damaged electronics can present a serious hazard. Do not attempt to turn on or operate any electrical device that you suspect has been damaged by water. We will coordinate the restoration of your electronics, including:
- Television sets
- DVD players
- And more
The key to restoring electronics is taking prompt action to prevent further damage. We start by cleaning the exterior of electronic devices to help stop further corrosion and damage. Electronics will be cleaned and inspected by a qualified electronics technician.
Document / Photograph Drying
When your valuable documents, including photographs, are damaged by water, extreme caution should be taken to help ensure the water damage does not destroy the document. Although some documents may not be restored to pre-water damage condition, SERVPRO of Paulding/Polk Counties can save a great deal and help minimize additional damage.
Depending on the type of documents and the level of water damage, we have five options for the restoration of documents:
- Air Drying
- Freezer Drying
- Vacuum Freeze Drying
- Vacuum Thermal Drying
Contents Claim Inventory Service
When a water emergency strikes, the damage can often feel overwhelming. We can help ease the worry and confusion during the recovery process by offering our Contents Claim Inventory Service (CCIS), which provides a detailed and accurate list of your belongings. We take a room-by-room inventory of your contents, including digital photos, and in some instances, bar coding.
Our Contents Claim Inventory Service:
- Preloss list and value of contents
- Detailed and accurate report
- Better information to settle claims quicker
- Assistance with burden of proof for claims
- Peace of mind when you need it most
Trauma and Crime Scene Cleanup
After the police have finished processing a crime or accident scene, the cleaning and restoration process can begin. Many times, crime and accident scenes have blood and other biohazard contaminants that pose a serious health risk. SERVPRO of Douglasville will respond immediately and has the specialized training, protective equipment, and experience to safely clean trauma and crime scenes.
Need Trauma or Crime Scene Cleanup? Call Today – (770) 489-5659
Our technicians follow OSHA and EPA protocols to help transform an unsafe environment back into a clean, safe home or business. Our first focus is always safety, since crime or accident scenes may involve bloodborne pathogens, harmful chemicals, and other dangers. We will always treat your property and the people involved with the greatest empathy and respect in the face of trying circumstances.
Crime Scene and Trauma Cleaning Services
- Fingerprint powder and evidence-gathering chemicals
- Tear gas and pepper spray residues
- Fire extinguisher residue
- Blood, bodily fluids, and tissue remnants
Common Trauma and Crime Scene Scenarios
Crime Scene Residues
From fingerprint powder and evidence-gathering chemicals to tear gas and pepper spray residues, we can clean and restore your property after a crime scene investigation.
We remove and dispose of bodily fluids, tissue and other potentially pathogenic substances resulting from accident, trauma, crime or death. Our trained Professionals clean, disinfect and deodorize the structure.
Many of the chemicals used in the production of illegal drugs such as methamphetamine are volatile and can leave harmful residues throughout a structure. Our technicians follow federal and state guidelines to properly clean all surfaces.