Here are some tips on advanced fire preparedness, and we think you’ll benefit from this information. Many people don’t put much thought into their building’s fire safety protocol, and it can lead to huge problems later on.
Much too often, those who own or manage properties — nursing homes, hospitals, hotels/motels, offices, stores — have a complacency when it comes to fire safety. They feel that their structure is fully protected when it is equipped from basement to roof with sprinklers, extinguishers, detectors, and alarm systems.
The truth is that outfitting a building with fire safety devices is only half the job. A smoke detector, a portable extinguisher, or even a sprinkler system is as protective only as its readiness to operate instantly and effectively. Keeping any building truly fire-safe means equipping it with reliable fire-fighting equipment — then inspecting and maintaining that equipment so that it is ready whenever an emergency occurs.
Every area of a building should be inspected regularly, ideally by a fire safety professional or, at the least, by an employee thoroughly trained to spot equipment in need of repair and conditions that could lead to a fire. The inspector (several employees can be trained to perform the task) should take a printed checklist of everything to cover, preferably an inspection form that has been specially prepared for those particular premises. (General inspection sheets usually are available from fire authorities and insurance companies.) All findings of an inspection tour should be recorded on the form, and presented to a supervisor for review and fast remedial action.
Maintenance and repair
While inspections can be done by a building’s staff, keeping equipment at peak efficiency requires that professionals perform all but the simplest maintenance. There are few building staffs that have members as qualified, competent, and experienced as specialists who work for sprinkler contractors, alarm system makers, and extinguisher service companies. A preventive maintenance and reconditioning program, operated continuously, can extend equipment service life considerably, and cut replacement costs.
Stripped down to its essence, fire is a chemical reaction, the rapid oxidation of a fuel (the combustible), producing heat and light. Take away the combustible, and there is nothing left to burn. That is the unique benefit of fire-resistant fabrics, far and away the number one method of preventing building fires. Unlike other antifire practices, those fabrics work the first time and every time, and need no maintenance or repair as long as they are intact. Relatively new on the firefighting scene, their initial applications were as bedspreads and mattress and pillow tickings for the lodging industry. Today, they are made for use in virtually any type of building, available as wall coverings, curtains, draperies, and upholstery flame barriers.
One of these is Sandel, the fire-resistant furnishing material made by Burlington Industries. Unlike many others rated “fire-resistant” by current testing methods, Sandel will not ignite, burn, melt, or drip, even when exposed to direct flame and temperatures up to 1,300[deg.]F. Woven from specially-coated inorganic fibers, it solves a serious problem outlined in a Federal Emergency Management Agency report: Fires in which textiles are the first to ignite result in more deaths and injuries than fires involving any other class of materials.
Orey, Walter J. “Is your fire protection equipment really ready?” Nursing Homes Long Term Care Management Mar.-Apr. 1987: 28+.