How to prevent and face a fire in companies

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Fire at your workplace usually originates in risky situations that are easily avoided or mitigated, only by implementing simple care and prevention strategies.

A fire in an office or company can cause serious consequences, both in its equipment and facilities, as well as in the personnel who work in it. This implies that all the necessary security measures must be adopted to prevent and contain, in a timely manner, these types of emergencies.

This objective is even more important, considering that the majority of fire accidents in companies could be avoided if the personnel apply the appropriate prevention measures correctly and at the right time.

This implies having a hygiene and safety regulation that clearly contemplates both the prevention measures that personnel must follow to avoid a fire, as well as the steps that must be taken to prevent it from spreading, once it has already started.

Another relevant factor lies in the constant and permanent training, both of the personnel in charge of the company’s security planning, and of the entire team of collaborators and supervisors.

Likewise, both groups of professionals must be prepared, for example, to use fire extinguishers correctly during the first phases of these emergencies, as well as to verify that these equipment are in optimal working order.

Fire prevention measures

As a first step, it is necessary that the security plan includes a series of preventive measures. In this regard, experts from the Chilean Institute of Work Safety, recommend including the following basic considerations:

  • Whenever possible, maintain a safety zone (without fuels) around any electrical appliance.
  • Do not overload the plugs. In case of using strips or extension cords to connect various electrical appliances, always consult qualified personnel or electrical experts.
  • If any defect is detected in the electrical installation or in the fire protection network, immediately notify the Head or Area Manager.
  • Do not bring any heat source near a fuel container.
  • In the event of hot electrical work (such as mechanical maintenance or electric arc welding, among others), consult the person responsible for the respective area in advance. This will ensure that the work is not carried out in an area with a high risk of fire and / or explosion.
  • Locate fire fighting equipment (fire extinguishers, fire hydrants, emergency exits, electrical panels or fire alarm buttons) in places that are always accessible for quick use in case of emergency or evacuation.
  • Do not obstruct emergency or evacuation routes and exits.
  • Respect the signs and posters, exits, escape routes, the location of the alarm buttons and the nearest fire extinguisher. If we notice any sign or indication of poor maintenance in any of this equipment, immediately we must notify those responsible for the Security area.
  • Maintain order and cleanliness in the workplace. Avoid dirt, accumulation of paper and cardboard, liquid spillage, or other material liable to cause flames.
  • In case of detecting the smell of gas or some other flammable product, notify the maintenance personnel or follow the indications established in the emergency plan.
  • If we are a smoker worker, never leave burning cigarette butts in ashtrays, or throw them into the wastebaskets.
  • Respect the NO SMOKING sign in all areas where it is so marked.
  • Do not leave any material that obstructs the work of the fire detectors. Any element must always be located at a minimum distance of 1 meter from the respective sensor.
  • Prevent the simultaneous presence of combustible material and sources susceptible to fire.
  • If flammable products are handled, they must be kept in specially designated areas, in closed and properly labeled containers. Said label must contain a clear and understandable safety data sheet for all personnel.
  • The premises where these products are stored must have good structural ventilation, or have specific ventilation systems.
  • In the event that products are transferred, we must maintain labels and use suitable containers, always respecting the safety regulations established for this type of operation.
  • Empty containers are also dangerous. They must be deposited in controlled and marked places, and it must be verified that they always maintain the flammable product labeling.
  • In areas where flammable products are handled, it is mandatory to have a special electrical installation. In addition, before introducing equipment, it is necessary to check whether they are suitable for this type of installation.

Extinguishers, first line of action against fire

One of the central points of any emergency protocol for fire cases is the extinguisher. By law, it is essential to have this equipment in any workplace subject to this condition. In addition, the type of extinguisher should be in accordance with the type of material used or work carried out in the facilities.

Chilean law establishes that the total number of fire extinguishers will depend on the area to be protected. To establish this quantity, the total surface area must be divided by the maximum coverage surface of the extinguishers, and this result approximates to the upper whole number. For example, if we get a quantity of 16.4, it should be close to 17.

The number of fire extinguishers must be distributed at different points, in such a way that none of them exceed the maximum travel distance.

This equipment must meet the requirements and characteristics established by DS 369, relative to the regulations on portable fire extinguishers. These requirements include color; technical information on both the cylinder and the extinguisher; how to record the operating instructions; the identification of who manufactures or imports the product and, if necessary, also of the technical service that has handled it.

In addition, fire extinguishers must be certified by an accredited laboratory through the Accreditation System of the Institute of Standardization, as stipulated in the aforementioned DS 369.

What to do in case of fire?

If despite all the prevention tasks applied, the company faces a fire emergency, the experts from the Chilean Safety Association, ACHS, recommend acting in accordance with the following guide:

Make sure we have the correct fire extinguishers

The number and power of the extinguishers distributed in the workspace must be in accordance with the surface it occupies.

Check the accessibility of the circuit breakers

This way, the power supply can be cut off directly in an emergency. It is also convenient to check the connection of electrical appliances at the end of the work day.

Identify emergency signs

Knowing the evacuation routes and understanding the emergency signs will allow the entire team to reach a safe area in case of fire.

Give notice and activate fire alarms

If smoke or other signs of fire are noticed, other workers should be notified immediately. In addition, it is necessary to identify and activate the fire alarm, to evacuate the place together with the rest of the team.

Stay in a safety zone

Using the established evacuation routes, we must calmly head towards a previously identified safety zone. Help those unfamiliar with the workspace and never act on our own.

Call emergency numbers

In Chile the emergency numbers are: 132 for firefighters, 131 for ambulances and 133 for Carabineros. It is necessary to have at hand the exact address of the workplace, as well as some physical landmarks to indicate to them how to get there.

Follow expert instructions

Cooperate with Firefighters and follow their instructions, as well as those of other emergency experts, when they arrive on the scene. And, above all, never act on your own initiative.

If we follow these recommendations, it will be possible to face a fire in a better way and prevent it from endangering the integrity of our workers and the company’s facilities.

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Francisco Gonzalez

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