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August 2017 Bulletin 221

Posted by Firepoint on 2017-08-16 13:11:55 EDT

Mitigating the Unpredictability of Building Emergencies

Sooner or later one can expect a building evacuation to take place, whether it be a real alert or false alarm. The fact is that the majority of people entering a building have the expectation that they can come and go in reasonable safety, and to a large extent they rarely consider the consequences of a fire occurrence.

Nevertheless, incidents requiring rapid evacuation of buildings do occur and are not always due to a catastrophic event. The bottom line is that an effective evacuation reduces the risks of potential harm to the occupants. This means it is essential for building operators and their supervisory personnel to know the precise roles they are responsible to fulfill.

One of many key steps towards minimizing the risk to occupants is a review of the evacuation procedures outlined in the approved fire safety plan, and a study of the escape routes on the floor plan drawings. To be fully effective, the fire safety evacuation procedures and fire drills should be an integral part of property management’s emergency management and response system, which is designed to deal with emergencies of all kinds. The process begins with putting measures in place to prevent fires and other hazardous events at the outset, followed by developing a plan of action to further reduce the level of risk to occupants.

Just as the need for a building emergency evacuation is difficult to predict, so are power interruptions to buildings. Much reliance is placed on the local infrastructure and electricity suppliers to continuously support a building’s needs. The weather has a huge influence on the supply of power. Main grids are subjected to increased demand to keep us comfortable indoors at the office during hot spells outside. In the winter, ice storms impact the supply of electricity, as power lines snap due to the sheer weight of ice crystals collecting on overhead cables. It is therefore critical to perform regular inspection and maintenance procedures for the building’s backup power systems and the equipment which they must support during an electricity outage. Each approved fire safety plan outlines the requirements for maintaining the functionality and operability not only of the building generator, but also the portable emergency lighting units, exit fixtures, and elevator power.

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