Fire safety: train to contain

by FM Media
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Quick decision-making in a crisis is critical to minimise its impact. JOHN LYNCH, Wormald GM business support services, highlights the importance of fire safety training.

The risk of fire is a serious concern, which can result in injury, fatality, property loss, significant damages and lengthy downtime. Although it is not always possible to prevent a fire, facilities must be adequately prepared by having the correct fire protection systems and equipment in place. Furthermore, business owners and facility managers must recognise the importance of investing in staff fire safety training.
Training helps to ensure that effective plans and procedures are formulated and are ready to be executed in the event of a fire. Employees must be aware of evacuation procedures, the latest regulations and how to use fire protection equipment, so as to confidently manage an emergency situation.

Businesses invest significantly in fire safety solutions in the form of fire protection systems and equipment to help minimise the impact of fire on people and property. Thorough assessments must be carried out to identify if the installed fire protection equipment and systems are up to the job. In addition to having a comprehensive and effective fire management system in place, it is equally important to have an effective response and evacuation procedure, and a trained emergency response team.
When a fire breaks out, the highest priority is to get the occupants of a building out of harm’s way, and trained staff will provide the best chance for this to happen in a methodical and efficient manner. Fire safety training is a vital step towards protecting the occupants of a building, and it provides staff with the knowledge, skills and confidence to make the right decisions and act quickly in the event of a workplace fire.
The impact of a crisis can be substantially reduced when people are trained to respond appropriately. Thus, it is fundamental to ensure that each employee is familiar with the emergency procedures in the workplace.

To be prepared, facility managers should develop an effective fire prevention plan in accordance with the Australian Standard, AS 3745 – 2010 Planning for Emergencies in Facilities. Emergency related training is a vital element of this fire prevention plan.
The standard outlines the minimum requirements for the development of the emergency plan and also provides guidance for the planning and implementation of an effective emergency planning committee, emergency control organisation and emergency response procedures.
Recent amendments to AS 3745 have made it mandatory that training is conducted for at least one member of the emergency planning committee, for the emergency control organisation and for the facility occupants. Furthermore, emergency control organisation members must attend skills retention training every six months.

Every piece of fire safety equipment is very specific and training should be provided to those responsible for using them. Furthermore, those closest to fire safety equipment should have a basic understanding of its exact operation.
Training is an essential line of defence against fire and can also provide employees with an awareness of how different types of fires can start and instil in them the confidence required to respond effectively. Some of the various courses available are outlined below.

Warden training: A company’s fire warden has a considerable amount of responsibility for everyone’s well-being in the event of a fire. Warden training is highly beneficial for equipping wardens with the skills and knowledge to carry out their duties in an emergency situation.
Courses typically cover emergency procedures, site familiarisation, understanding fire protection equipment and how to use fire extinguishers. There is also the opportunity to take this training further; for example, addressing how a warden should respond in the event of a bomb threat.
Wardens working in premises where emergency warning and communication systems are installed are also recommended to undertake training on how to use these systems so as to understand their duties and responsibilities and how to accurately keep records.

Emergency awareness training: While not everyone within an office building has the same responsibilities as the warden and the emergency control organisation team, all staff should have a basic understanding of how to react safely in an emergency situation. Should a fire occur, anyone could be required to help others safely out of the facility.
On this type of course, trainees typically learn about the emergency procedures set-up in their workplace, such as the structure of the emergency control organisation, alarm activation in the building, responding to emergencies and the location of assembly areas.

Evacuation training: Workplace evacuation exercises are designed to test the ability of staff and occupants to efficiently evacuate in the event of an emergency. This type of training is often conducted using the most likely emergency scenarios to occur in your workplace and the evacuation exercise would include a risk assessment of the premises.
Evacuation training can also help employees prepare to deal with the fear and panic associated with a fire and how to identify quick ways to leave the facility. These evacuation procedures may be useful during emergency situations when visibility might be greatly reduced.

Fire extinguisher training: Fire extinguishers are an essential element of fire safety. Training can help to educate users of the facility about the relevance of state fire safety regulations and develop operational techniques for using fire equipment in the specific facility. If facility occupants and users aren’t shown how to use the fire extinguishers located in their facility, they can prove to be more of a hazard than a help in an emergency situation.

Breathing apparatus training: In any toxic gas or oxygen deficient condition, self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) may be used to provide respiratory protection. Breathing apparatus training will provide staff with the skills and knowledge on how to use an SCBA if required.
The training would typically cover topics such as checking and operating breathing apparatus and responding to incidents requiring breathing apparatus to be worn. Taking a refresher course every two years should be encouraged in order to stay up-to-date with the latest equipment.

Spill response training: Employees who undertake work of a hazardous nature should receive proper information, instruction and training before they commence that work. Those exposed to hazardous liquid chemicals should be trained on how to attend to spills in a safe manner and utilise spill response materials. Staff must also be aware of the latest legislation, as well as what components make up a spill kit and spill response procedures.

Having all the safety equipment and necessary accessories for a fire hazard is important, but it is also vital that the users of a facility know how to use these safety devices during emergency situations. A confident team that is able to respond appropriately in the event of a fire is an invaluable investment for a business.

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