Although, without a doubt, workplace building fires have the possibility of exposing occupants to dangerous situations, this threat may easily be compounded by fear or confusion that put them at further risk. It is therefore critical for building operators and property management to prepare in advance and rehearse fire evacuation procedures contained in the approved fire safety plans. The fire code mandates that fire drills are conducted and that the elected building supervisory personnel are trained accordingly, and that they fully understand their roles and responsibilities should an emergency evacuation arise. In the event a fire condition emerges, the building’s supervisory personnel are to provide occupant guidance during the evacuation, and in addition ensure evacuees reach the designated assembly area specified in the approved fire safety plan. The approved fire safety plan clearly establishes evacuation solutions that are tailored to the specific requirements of the building usage and classification. Once a fire emergency is underway within a building, there must be a safe means of evacuation for all occupants. Pre-planned arrangements for supporting persons requiring assistance during an evacuation are also outlined in the plan and are updated at intervals of no greater than one month.
It is to be noted that although a fire safety plan bears the stamp of acceptance and/or letter indicating the fire safety plan meets the requirements, a building manager’s responsibility is far from over when it comes to implementation. Regardless of whether the building has a newly approved fire safety plan or one which is already in place, building managers are responsible for ensuring that all applicable requirements are followed at all times.
Each approved fire safety plan includes the code requirements for the inspection and testing of the fire alarm and sprinkler systems, as well as the maintenance to be performed on equipment such as the fire extinguishers, standpipe hoses, emergency lighting units and exit fixtures. As per the fire code, keeping the fire safety plan updated as deemed necessary, at increments of no greater than 12 months, is as much a requirement as is its implementation. While the fire safety plan contains comprehensive guidelines to ensure full compliance with the fire code, identifying all the potential building fire risks in advance is by far the best line of defense to reduce the risk of fires occurring in the first place.