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PostHeaderIcon Fire Evacuation

An automatic fire alarm system is designed to detect the unwanted presence of fire by monitoring environmental changes associated with combustion. In general, a fire alarm system is either classified as automatically actuated, manually actuated, or both. Automatic fire alarm systems can be used to notify people to evacuate in the event of a fire or other emergency, to summon emergency services, and to prepare the structure and associated systems to control the spread of fire and smoke.

All employers have a legal and moral obligation to assure the safety of their employees and anyone visiting their premises. The 1994 Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) gives employees the right to a healthy and safe working environment and non-compliance can result in stiff penalties.

Preventing a blaze

The first and most important aspect of fire safety is preventing one from actually breaking out.

This includes:

  • Ban smoking in certain areas, especially near potentially flammable materials or enclosed spaces
  • Test all electrical equipment on a regular basis for potential fires hazards. Use plugs with trip-switches; make sure electric cables aren't laying around on the floor and so on
  • Assign employees to do a sweep of the office/workshop every day and make sure electrical equipment is switched off and to identify potential fire hazards
  • Train some members of staff in fire safety, risk assessment and emergency procedures

Assessing your risk

Inspectors can visit the premises at any time to check that a fire risk assessment had been done and all necessary documents in compliance with Occupational Health and Safety legislature are in order.

Fire detection and containment

Should a fire accidentally break out despite all these measures, the earlier the fire is detected, the better the chance of limiting the damage.

  • Installing a fire detection system is a worthwhile expense, so the fire can be contained as soon as possible and employees evacuated if necessary
  • Make sure you have SABS-approved fire extinguishers placed at various points, especially in high risk areas. Make sure employees know how to use them properly
  • If your business is a high fire risk, it's worth installing a sprinkler or similar system so a dangerous situation doesn't become a disastrous one
  • Even the best equipment will not help you if it doesn't work. Make sure your fire equipment is serviced regularly and comply with SABS standards

 Evacuation plan

If there is a serious fire, the evacuation measures you put in place can ultimately save lives. Time is of the essence, so it's important that your employees are familiar with the evacuation plan.

Questions to ask:

  • Do employees know what to do in the event of a fire? Will they jump out the window/first try to take as much as they can with them/get in their cars and rush home?
  • Do they know the number of the nearest fire brigade or emergency services?
  • In the event of a serious fire, do they phone for help first or evacuate the building first (in case you're wondering, they should evacuate first)?
  • Are all fire escapes and exits clear of furniture or anything that may prevent someone from getting out in a hurry?
  • Do employees know where to assemble so a roll-call can be taken?

Taking the appropriate fire safety measures can not only save lives, but it could also mean the difference between minor damages or your business burning to the ground. When you think about it that way, there's no question whether these steps are necessary.


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