President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the first National Fire Prevention Week on October 4-10, 1925, beginning a tradition of the President of the United States signing a proclamation recognizing the occasion. It is observed on the Sunday through Saturday period in which October 9 falls, in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire, which began October 8, 1871, and did most of its damage October 9. The horrific conflagration killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres.
In observance of National Fire Prevention week I would like to take this time to increase fire safety awareness in the workplace. There are time-tested ways to prevent and survive a fire. It’s not a question of luck. It’s a matter of planning ahead.
To prevent fires and protect yourself if a fire occurs:
Never put hot matches or cigarette butts into office trash.
Keep paper and other flammables away from heat sources, such as heat vents, space heaters, stovetops and ovens.
Keep equipment and furniture away from exits, and never lock or block exit doors.
Learn your emergency exit route in advance so you can get out quickly. Have at least one alternate route in mind in case your initial route is blocked or otherwise impassable.
At the first sign of a fire, call 911 and/or activate the nearest fire alarm.
If no fire alarm system is available, try to alert as many of your co-workers as possible of the need to evacuate. You may appoint one or more persons on each floor or in each department to ensure all staff present have been alerted and evacuated.
If you were unable to activate a fire alarm, report the fire as soon as possible after you have reached a safe place.
Do a headcount. If necessary, alert responding firefighters of the need to conduct rescue operations.
If the fire is very small and you’ve been trained to do so, use the nearest fire extinguisher to put out the fire, then proceed to evacuate until trained firefighters arrive and confirm the fire danger has passed.
If the fire is large or you are untrained, evacuate immediately and report to your pre-determined assembly spot.
While evacuating, if you come to a closed door, use the back of your hand to feel if it’s hot to the touch. If it is, DON’T OPEN IT. Use another route.
Because all fires require oxygen to burn, try to close all doors behind you as you evacuate.
If you must escape through smoke, keep your body as low to the floor as possible, since both smoke and heat rise. Cover your nose and mouth with your sleeve or other cloth.
If you are trapped, seal up all room vents and stay close to the floor where there should be more oxygen.
If your clothing catches fire, DON’T RUN. Stop, drop and roll to smother the flames.
Under no circumstances should you ever go back into a burning building. Once you have escaped the danger, stay out. Let trained firefighters conduct rescue operations.
Robin H. Edwards
Granville County, NC
(919) 603-1310 Voice
(919) 603-1399 Fax