October 01, 2015
Fire Prevention Week and Your Facility
Fire Prevention Week occurs every October, and it is an excellent time for reliability professionals to take some time out to review their facilities" fire preparedness plans and safety measures. After all, preventing a fire from breaking out is not only a way to avoid a costly financial disaster and shutdown, but it can also save lives and help you avoid serious injury.
The most important rule of fire prevention is to have a plan in case you do have a fire. This plan should include action items and information such as who to call and their phone number, evacuation routes and fire escapes, the protocol for hazardous material cleanups, and so forth. Assigning appropriate team members to undertake specific tasks is crucial as well. For instance, you may want to charge one person with handling contacting emergency services and someone else to help evacuate the premises.
As for actually preventing a fire, keeping a neat and tidy workspace is key. Avoid leaving flammable materials and chemicals next to electrical outlets or areas that accumulate heat, as this can quickly become a fire hazard or prevent fire rescue teams from accessing critical areas if a fire does occur.
Another way to avoid a fire in your facility is to ensure that you do not overload a circuit. Plugging multiple energy-heavy appliances or machines into the same outlet can easily cause a blown fuse or overload a circuit, which could, in turn, result in a fire. Always make sure your circuits can handle the equipment you plug into them, and if there is any doubt, find another location.
To help prevent a small fire from becoming a serious one, make sure you have fire extinguishers in spaces that are more likely to have an outbreak. Be certain to train employees on their use and location, and always install fire extinguishers in a highly visible, well-lit area. Teach your team members when it is safe to fight a fire and when it is not. In addition, your facility should carry the right grade of fire extinguisher for the different types of fires that can happen in your building. Not all fires are the same, and not every fire extinguisher is the right class for a given fire.
Fire alarms are another great fire prevention tool at your disposal. Being alerted the moment that an issue arises can be the difference between life and death, literally. At the change of every season, inspect each fire alarm and smoke detector in your facility and check that they work and that the batteries have not expired. If your fire alarms are more than 10 years old, replace them, as they have a lifespan of about a decade.
Finally, this may come as a surprise, but perhaps your greatest weapon to aid a facility manager in fire prevention is a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). This handy software helps prevent fires in a number of ways. First, it allows you to properly track maintenance on equipment, which keeps your machinery in good shape; a poorly operating machine can easily become a fire hazard.
Maintenance software also lets you store vital documents and information about hazardous materials and chemicals in your facility, including handling procedures and what to do in the event of a fire. If a fire does break out, a CMMS has one additional feature: It stores documentation, so that you can provide information to insurance companies during the claims process to show that you performed due diligence and maintained your facility"s equipment properly.