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Office Fire Prevention Strategies


A fire caused by poor housekeeping, carelessness, or failure to follow instructions can destroy your job, your income, and even your life. But the chance of a fire can be reduced if everyone makes an effort to practice daily fire prevention measures.

Follow these fire safety tips

  • Don’t allow trash and litter to accumulate unnecessarily.
  • Keep the office and dock areas neat and clean.
  • Know where fire alarm pull stations and extinguishers are located.
  • Make sure you know the different types of fire extinguishers and how to use them. Check extinguishers periodically to see if they are charged and well marked.
  • Store hazardous materials in designated areas.
  • Keep exits free of obstructions.
  • Make sure there are good connections and effective grounds in the wiring.
  • Smoke only where permitted.
  • Keep equipment clean and use it properly.
  • Handle flammable liquids with caution.
  • Know the proper exits and procedures in case of an emergency.
  • If you store hazardous materials properly, the chances of fire, spills, and accidents are greatly reduced. A leaking drum of lacquer thinner can be a fire hazard unless the right precautions are taken. Make sure you know the loading and storage chart so you don’t load noncompatibles on the same trailer or in the same area of the terminal.
  • Every terminal should have an emergency plan. In case of fire or other emergencies, procedures should outline who is to call the fire department and how the building is to be evacuated.
  • When a fire or emergency evacuation does occur, don’t panic. Keep calm and follow instructions.
  • Following rules is not just the responsibility of the safety supervisor or the terminal manager, it’s everyone’s responsibility.
  • It is also important to be aware of arsonists. Keep an eye out for unusually placed flammables, such as oily rags stored in peculiar places. If you watch for “offbeat” actions, you may be able to spot the arsonist. Don’t take the necessary steps yourself. Tell your supervisor at once. Fire prevention is everyone’s job.

Emergency Preparedness

One result of the recent trend toward open office environments is that smoke from office fires is not contained or isolated as effectively as in less open designs. Open office designs allow smoke to spread quickly, and the incorporation of many synthetic and other combustible material in office fixtures (such as furniture, rugs, drapes, plastic wastebaskets, and vinyl-covered walls) often makes “smoky” fires. In addition to being smoky, many synthetic materials can emit toxic materials during a fire. For example, cyanide can be emitted from urethane, which is commonly used in upholstery stuffing. Most burning materials can emit carbon monoxide. Inhalation of these toxic materials can severely hamper an office worker’s chances of timely getting out of an area on fire. This makes it imperative for office workers to recognize the signal to evacuate their work area and know how to exit in an expedient manner.

The local emergency action plan will address potential emergencies that can be expected in your work area. For emergency evacuations, the use of floor plans or workplace maps that clearly show the emergency escape routes and safe or refuge areas should be included in the plan. All employees must understand what actions they are to take in the work area and assemble in a safe zone. All new employees should discuss how they should respond to emergencies with their supervisors shortly after starting work and whenever their responsibilities under the plan change. This orientation should include:

  • Identifying the individuals responsible for various aspects of the plan (chain of command) so that, in an emergency, confusion will be minimized and employees will have no doubt about who has authority for making decisions;
  • Identifying the method of communication that will be used to alert employees that an evacuation or some other action is required, as well as how employees can report emergencies (such as manual pull stations, public address systems, or telephones); and
  • Identifying the evacuation routes from the building and locations where employees will gather.

General Guidance for Fires and Related Emergencies

If you discover a fire or see/smell smoke, immediately follow these procedures.

  • Notify the local fire department.
  • Notify CDC Physical Security or Building Security Force.
  • Activate the building alarm (fire pull station); if not available or operational, verbally notify people in the building.
  • Isolate the area by closing windows and doors and evacuate the building, if you can do so safely.
  • Shut down equipment in the immediate area, if possible.
  • If possible and if you have received appropriate training, use a portable fire extinguisher to:
    • assist oneself to evacuate;
    • assist others to evacuate;
    • and control a small fire.
  • Do not collect personal or official items; leave the area of the fire immediately and walk, do not run, to the exit and designated gathering area.
  • You should provide the fire/police teams with the details of the problem upon their arrival. Special hazard information you might know is essential for the safety of the emergency responders. You should not re-enter the building until directed to do so. Follow any special procedures established for your unit.
  • If the fire alarms are ringing in your building, you must evacuate the building and stay out until notified to return. Move to your designated meeting location or move upwind from the building, staying clear of streets, driveways, sidewalks, and other access ways to the building. If you are a supervisor, try to account for your employees, keep them together, and report any missing persons to the emergency personnel at the scene.

If an individual is overexposed to smoke or chemical vapors, remove the person to an uncontaminated area and treat for shock. Do not enter the area if you suspect that a life-threatening condition still exists (such as heavy smoke or toxic gases). If CPR certified, follow standard CPR protocols. Get medical attention promptly.

If your or another person’s clothing catches fire, extinguish the burning clothing by using the drop-and-roll technique, wrap the victim in a fire blanket, or douse the victim with cold water (use an emergency shower if it is immediately available). Carefully remove contaminated clothing; however, avoid further damage to the burned area. Cover injured person to prevent shock. Get medical attention promptly.