One major drawback of the recent trend of open space office environments is that smoke, toxic fumes and heat are not isolated or contained as effectively as in a closed office environment. The ever-increasing use of synthetic and highly combustible materials such as plastic furniture, rugs, vinyl-covered walls, drapes, and office equipment is another reason behind the occurrence of “smoky fires”. Both factors call for a solid fire emergency preparedness plan that is able to not only save the lives of the employees working in an office but also minimise damage to the office premises. The fire emergency preparedness plan should be prepared for all potential emergencies that can be anticipated in the workplace. One way of ensuring the safety of your employees in case of a fire emergency is to encourage the use of fire breathing apparatus. However, at this time, breathing apparatus is not a mandatory equipment needed to be equipped in the office in Singapore.
Let us take a look at some important tips that can help you prepare a better and more efficient fire emergency plan for your office:
- Prepare a detailed and easy to understand “facility information noticeboard”. The facility information notice board should include details of key elements (number of floors, exit points, entry points, windows, stairways, lifts etc) of the office building. This information is helpful not only for your employees and management but also for the local fire department and other emergency response agencies.
- Give regular training to your employees and management on how to report a fire emergency. They should know how to activate a fire alarm and how to notify local fire department in case of a fire emergency.
- Your fire emergency preparedness plan should also include all emergency phone numbers and these should also be posted at various highly visible places within the office.
- Roles and responsibilities of the management, as well as employees, should be clearly defined in the emergency preparedness plan. Management should be well aware of how to respond when faced with a fire emergency. Establishing a chain of command can be of great help in minimising any confusion.
- A separate plan for properly and swiftly shutting down all the equipment and machines should be prepared and shared with equipment operators. The operators must know how to safely shut down a machine or equipment to prevent damage and additional hazards.
- Detailed diagrams for emergency evacuation should be prepared and displayed clearly at highly visible locations throughout the office. This diagram should clearly show evacuation routes, critical controls or valves, emergency buttons, stairways, lifts, exit doors, fire extinguishers, fire-breathing apparatus and all other critical elements.
- Regular emergency evacuation drills should be organised to ensure that all employees and management know what to do when faced with a fire emergency situation. Employees and management should be provided hands-on training on the proper use of fire-breathing apparatus, fire extinguishers, fire alarms and any other apparatus that can help them effectively deal with a fire emergency situation.
- The fire emergency preparedness plan should be updated regularly.