In this blog, we typically focus on tools and techniques that prevent fires. But no matter how well-protected your workplace might be, it’s important to know what to do in the event that one breaks out. That’s why the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has established some basic rules of firefighting. These rules are designed to not only teach people how to safely fight fires, but how to know when they should not attempt to fight a fire as well. Let’s start with the ‘Three A’s’ of fire response.
If you encounter a fire in your workplace, you should:
Activate the building’s alarm system or notify the local fire department by calling 911. If you’re unable to do this, designate someone else to do it for you.
Assist anyone in immediate need of assistance, as long as doing so won’t put you in harm’s way. You won’t be able to help anyone if you injure yourself in the process.
Finally, do not attempt to extinguish the fire until you’ve completed the first two A’s – activing the alarm system and assisting persons in need.
Do not attempt to fight the fire under the following circumstances:
- If the fire is spreading rapidly from its point of origin, it’s best to evacuate the building and leave the firefighting to the professionals.
- If you don’t have adequate or appropriate equipment. If you don’t have the right type of fire extinguisher, for example, you should not attempt to fight the fire.
- If you don’t know what’s burning. The risk here is twofold. To begin with, you might choose to fight the fire with the wrong type of fire extinguisher, potentially exacerbating the problem. You could also put yourself at risk of inhaling toxic fumes from the unknown substance.
- If you don’t have a clear path of egress behind you. Before you attempt to fight a fire, you should always make sure there’s a clear exit or means of escape behind you.
- If you feel uncomfortable fighting the fire, or if your instincts tell you it would be unsafe to do so. You should only attempt the fire if you’re confident in your ability to do so safely and effectively. Otherwise, it’s best to evacuate and wait for the fire department.