Experts all agree, you wouldn’t start a business without a plan first. You probably don’t order inventory without planning how much product you’ll need in the future. In fact, being a small business owner is all about planning—from day-to-day activities to long-term strategies. A fire at your business is an event that needs a plan, too.
Fires are chaotic, confusing, and life-threatening events which can cause people to panic if a plan is not in place. Every effort should be made to avoid a fire in the first place, but a well-executed and well-rehearsed fire plan could save lives if a fire should break out.
Part of your regular housekeeping plan should include fire safety planning. Make sure all exits and aisleways are clear of obstacles that could hinder exit from the building. Boxes and debris should be removed from these areas on a regular basis. This goes hand-in-hand with developing an evacuation plan for employees and visitors. Be sure to designate a meeting area outside the building so you can account for everyone. Practice your fire evacuation plan.
Not only should fire extinguishers be inspected once a year by a professional, every month you should visually inspect your fire extinguishers to ensure proper operation. In addition, your employees should be trained in proper use of the fire extinguishers. Make a checklist as part of your planning to help you remember.
Employees should also be trained to drop to the floor in the case of fire to lessen smoke inhalation. Have them practice breathing through blankets, towels, and clothing as well.
Remember “stop, drop, and roll”? Make it part of your fire plan. Have employees practice the motion.
Ensure all employees are trained in calling 911 when a fire breaks out. It might seem an obvious thing to do, but people can forget obvious things when the havoc of a fire starts. Practicing this simple phone call will help make it an automatic response.
Your fire plan should be written out and included in your formal safety program. The key to a successful fire plan is to rehearse it with your employees on a regular basis. If a fire breaks out, there may not be time to think clearly. If your employees have been properly trained, their response to the fire can be quicker and more automatic with less panicking on their part. That can be the difference between life and death.