Office Fire Safety: A Basic Guide for Fire Prevention
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), U.S. fire departments respond to fires at more than 3,000 office properties every year. Not only do these disasters cause hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage, they result in dozens of injuries and even death—taking an average of four lives per year. The good news is, you can arm yourself with office fire safety knowledge to stop a fire before it ever starts.
To protect yourself and your colleagues, read on for some commonsense workplace fire safety tips.
The Basics of Office Fire Safety
Have a plan
The first line of defense when it comes to office fire safety is an emergency response plan (ERP). If your organization doesn’t already have an ERP, this FEMA worksheet can guide you through putting a plan together. After your plan is in place:
- Hold regular employee meeting to review and update your ERP
- Train employees on ERP procedures (such as how to use fire extinguisher)
- Hold fire drills at least once a year
- Designate safe meeting places outside of your office where employees should gather for attendance following a fire or other emergency
- Mark your office’s entrances and exits and keep them clear at all times
Be a smart chef
Cooking equipment is responsible for nearly a third of all office fires. While it might be tempting to pop into a meeting while your lunch is heating up, you should stay put while your food is cooking. Even leaving microwave popcorn unattended is a no-no—the heat build-up can lead to fire in just a few minutes.
Keep all cooking appliances, such as coffee makers and electric kettles, in kitchen spaces only, and off of desks. Unplug them when you’re not using them. And be sure to keep them away from walls and other flammable objects, like stacks of napkins.
Stay warm and safe
Your office might get chilly in the winter months, but it’s best to keep space heaters away from work, as they cause thousands of fires and hundreds of deaths every year. If you do bring a space heater into the office, make sure you keep it away from any flammable items and unplug it after every use. Try setting an alarm on your phone or computer to remind yourself to pull the plug before you head home.
From frayed cords to overloaded circuits, electrical issues are a leading factor in office fires. Here are some steps you can take to avoid them:
- Only use extension cords for temporary purposes, and unplug them when not in use
- Do not use damaged electrical equipment
- Use approved power bars instead of circuit splitters
Smoldering cigarettes are one of the top causes of workplace fires. Do yourself and your coworkers a favor, and take your smoke breaks outside, in designated areas. And make sure to put your butt and matches out in a proper ashtray.
In the event of a fire at your workplace, follow these office fire safety steps:
- If you see smoke or fire, pull the fire alarm and call 911
- When a fire alarm sounds, immediately exit the building
- Avoid taking personal belongings
- Take the stairs, not the elevator
- Proceed to your evacuation assembly area
- Do not leave the assembly area until you’re instructed to do so
- If you suspect someone might still be in the building, alert security or a first response team member