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UL Offers Tips to Protect Employees During Emergencies

It's Fire Prevention Week. If a fire broke out at your workplace, would your employees know what to do?


In honor of Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 7-13), ask yourself this question: If a fire broke out or other emergency arose in the workplace, would your employees know what to do? Planning ahead and keeping a level head can mean the difference between safety and danger.

"We''re calling everyone to action during Fire Prevention Week to start thinking about fire safety not just at home, but at your place of work or any building you''re in," says John Drengenberg, Global Consumer Affairs Manager at Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL). "Preparation now could lead to an effective escape in the event of a fire."

The safety professionals at UL offer these steps you can share with employees to prevent accidents and loss of life in workplace emergencies.

  • Know the location of the nearest fire alarm; know how to use it and be familiar with its signal.
  • Learn the location of the two nearest exits from your work area.
  • Count the doors, desks, work stations, etc., between your work area and the nearest exit. During a fire, it may be necessary to escape in the dark.
  • Don''t panic.
  • Don''t assume anyone else has called emergency services personnel. When calling the fire department (9-1-1), remain calm and give the dispatcher as much information as you know.
  • Never take the elevator during a fire. You may be trapped if the power goes out.
  • Before opening any door, feel the handle with the back of your hand for heat. Then, feel the door itself, starting from the bottom and moving to the top. If the door is hot, do not try to open it. Smoke and flames may rush into the room. If the door is cool, open it slowly but be prepared to quickly shut it if smoke or heat rushes in.
  • Leave quickly, closing doors as you go to contain fire and smoke.
  • If you encounter smoke or flame during your escape, use another exit. Heat and smoke rise so cleaner air will be near the floor. Get as low as possible to the floor and move toward the exit.
  • Once outside, move away from the building and stay out until emergency personnel say it is safe.
  • If coworkers are still inside, notify firefighters. Don''t attempt to rescue coworkers yourself once you''ve made it outside.

If you cannot escape safely, remain calm and protect yourself by closing as many doors as possible between you and the fire. Seal all cracks where smoke can enter by using wet materials such as jackets and towels. If there''s a telephone in the room where you''re trapped, call the fire department emergency number and tell them exactly where you are.

Wait at a window if possible and signal for help by waving an object that can be seen from a distance and, if possible, open a window for air, but do not break it as you may need to close the window if smoke rushes in. Try to remain patient as rescue can take several hours.

Underwriters Laboratories suggest that employers should conduct regular mandatory fire drills at least twice a year. They should post building evacuation routes throughout workplace buildings. Employees with special needs should be included in the emergency planning process. Employers should also ensure that fire exits and doorways are never blocked. Any signs of malfunction or blockage should be reported to building management.

For more fire safety and other safety material, visit UL''s Web site at

by Sandy Smith

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