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    How to Escape a Fire in Your Workplace

    Several hundred people die in workplace fires in North America each year. Would you know what to do if a fire broke out in your workplace? Many commercial buildings distribute emergency safety plans to each of their tenants, and hold fire drills once or twice a year to give workers a chance to practice their escape. But if your company has not developed its own fire safety plan yet, here is a set of steps to follow to help you escape a fire emergency.

    fire and chair

    Seven Steps to Take Before an Emergency Arises

    1. Determine your escape route. Map out a floor plan of the office and highlight the main escape route, with all exits clearly marked, including windows if those windows can be used as an exit. Advance planning will reduce confusion and minimize panic in the face of an actual fire.

    2. Know the location of all fire alarms, sprinklers, fire extinguishers and hoses in your vicinity.

    3. Establish a safe muster point where all staff will meet after escaping. For instance, you could designate a parking lot down the street as the location where all personnel will report so they can be accounted for. Keep an up-to-date list of all personnel so that each person can be checked off when they report in.

    4. Review the emergency plan regularly with your staff. Provide each new employee with a copy of the plan as part of their orientation.

    5. If your building does not have regular fire drills, schedule your own fire drill twice a year. Practicing the routine ensures that everyone knows what to do and where to go. Every second counts in an emergency. Fire drills give you a chance to review the procedures, improve response time, refine the escape plan and ensure that everyone gets out alive.

    6. Make sure your evacuation plan provides proper arrangements for persons with special needs. Ensure that building management is aware of any staff member who will need assistance in case of an evacuation.

    7. Appoint a fire warden and deputy fire warden to take charge during the emergency and direct people to the exits. The wardens will also be responsible for taking attendance at the muster point after evacuation.

      What to Do If a Fire Starts

      • STAY CALM - DO NOT PANIC. Easy to say, but hard to do when smoke and fire are involved. The more you concentrate on getting out alive, the less time you'll have to panic.

      • If you discover a fire: (1) pull the fire alarm; (2) call 911; (3) evacuate quickly.

      • Assist any disabled or incapacitated employees to get out of the building.

      • Breathe through your nose to filter out smoke particles. If at all possible, place a wet cloth over your mouth and nose.

      • Go to the nearest emergency exit and take the stairs. DO NOT USE THE ELEVATOR.

      • If you can't see an exit sign, try to visualize the room around you and picture where the exits are. Locate a wall and follow it. It will eventually lead to a door or window.

      • Listen for sounds from outside, as these can act as a guide to the exits.

      • If you get trapped by smoke, crouch down as low as you can. Hot air rises, so any cool clean air will be found close to the floor.

      • If there's anyone else with you, work with them to find an escape route. It will help both of you feel more confident and less likely to panic.

      • When you find an exit, assist others who are still in the building by shouting or making other loud noises at the exit to guide them to your position.

      • Check doors for heat by touching them, using the back of your hand and starting near the bottom. If the door feels hot, that means there's a fire on the other side. Close doors quickly if smoke or heat blow in. Shut all doors behind you when leaving.

      • If the smoke is too think for you to see, shuffle - don't walk. Keep your weight on your rear foot and use your forward foot to check the floor for openings (such as stairwells) and obstructions (such as furniture).

      • If you have to use stairs to escape, go down backwards. This will keep your head nearer the stairs and cleaner air. Or, alternatively, go down in a sitting position which enables you to grip the stairs to prevent falling.

      • If you're trapped and can't find an escape route, call 911 and give your exact location. If you're near a window, signal for help with a flashlight or something brightly colored.

      • Once outside, meet at your designated muster point. If someone is missing, immediately alert the emergency personnel on scene.

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