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Date: December 10, 2014 Author: Brandon Winters

Over the past century, commercial building fires have resulted in millions of fatalities across the globe. Part of the reason why is fires are difficult to predict and even more difficult to bring under control after they ignite. While it is virtually impossible to prevent all building fires, building owners can take strategic safety measures to protect building occupants when fires occur. Below are four important strategies for preventing fatalities in commercial building fires.

Make sure the building has adequate emergency exit paths.

A multi-floor building too few, too narrow exit paths that are located in odd places in relation to normal egress paths can make it difficult for evacuees to escape the premises. Inadequate exit paths often lead to overcrowding. As evacuees try to push their way to safety, they can cause fatalities by trampling evacuees ahead of them.

The emergency exit paths in multi-floor buildings should adhere to the rules and regulations in NFPA 5000: Building Construction and Safety Code. A fire safety inspector familiar with NFPA 5000 and the information in Building Construction Related to the Fire Service, 3rd Ed. can help building owners ensure that their buildings feature adequate emergency exit paths.

Outline emergency exit paths with photoluminescent tape.

The NFPA also has rules and regulations for implementing photoluminescent tape in emergency exit paths. Placement of photoluminescent tape in emergency exit paths should adhere to NFPA 101, also known as the Life Safety Code. Unlike the illumination of emergency lighting, the glow of photoluminescent tape remains remarkably visible in the presence of thickening smoke.

Emergency exit paths that contain photoluminescent tape according to NFPA 101 should be placed in the following areas: on the leading edge of each stair, around the perimeter of stairwell landings, along the length of handrails and around the perimeter of unremovable obstacles in the egress path. Photoluminescent tape is a green building solution.   

Implement photoluminescent fire safety signage.

In addition to implementing photoluminescent tape in exit paths, building owners should implement photoluminescent fire safety signage at proper points throughout the building. Photoluminescent signs that mark the location of fire extinguishers, firehose and standpipe units and doors that lead to emergency exits make these things easier to find when smoke is present.

Building owners that need assistance with choosing the right signage and placing it in the right locations should consult a fire safety inspector who is familiar with NFPA 101 and the information in Building Construction Related to the Fire Service, 3rd Ed. When it is implemented to code, photoluminescent fire safety signage can dramatically increase the safety of evacuees.

Implement an Evacuation Plan and Practice It

Commercial buildings should have a fire evacuation plan that helps occupants efficiently make their way to safety in the event of major fires. Ideally, the plan should be practiced semi-annually to help building occupants remember where to go and what to do in an emergency evacuation. The more the plan is practiced, the smoother things should go in the event of a fire.

A fire safety inspector familiar with NFPA 101 and the information in Building Construction Related to the Fire Service, 3rd Ed. can help building owners develop effective evacuation plans based on building construction and the number of people who inhabit a building. If your commercial building doesn’t have an evacuation plan in place, now is the time to create one.

Inspect the Building for Fire Safety

Commercial buildings should be inspected semi-anually for fire safety. In some cases, deadly building fires can be prevented with a few simple measures recommended by a fire safety inspector. For example, removing as many obstacles as possible from exit paths can cut evacuation time, and having the electrical system inspected can help prevent electrical fires.

Working with a fire safety inspector will ensure that your building meets federal, state and municipal fire codes. In addition to helping protect its occupants, keeping your building up to code can also help prevent injury lawsuits that result from fire or the evacuation process. By protecting occupants, code inspection helps protect the financial interests of building owners.

Interested in fire safety inspection?

If you are a firefighter who is interested in working with building owners to help prevent deadly blazes, becoming a fire safety inspector may be the right career goal. To get started on acquainting yourself with building safety, read Building Construction Related to the Fire Service, 3rd Ed., an essential building safety text for fire service workers that contains invaluable study resources. To order your copy of this information-packed textbook, visit our online store today.
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