'Chariots of Fire'

David Addy, EcoVadis.

Keep away the ‘Chariots of Fire’.

In this Olympic year, it’s only natural for our minds to turn to the film ‘Chariots of Fire’ and Vangelis’ theme music – particularly after Mr Bean’s virtuoso performance in the Olympics Opening Ceremony. However, the sight of ‘chariots of fire’ is not always welcome: think seeing the Norfolk Fire Service battling to save your business in the early hours, and whether you have the contingencies and insurance to survive total loss like Aylsham Kitchen and Bathroom Centre and you’ll see what I mean!

What Britain does best!
Well aside from winning the Tour de France and lots of Olympic medals, we are also generally great at fire precautions:

  • Alarms;
  • Smoke/heat/ionisation detectors;
  • Signage;
  • Emergency Lighting;
  • Fire compartmentalisation;
  • Fire escape routes and exits.

So this effectively means that if a fire happens in a modern well-appointed building with all of these, you’d like to think on balance no-one is going to die or get seriously hurt. That sounds like a gold medal performance!

But wait, what about fire prevention? You’ve spotted Britain’s Achilles Heel – like Team Gymnastics was to Team GB until London 2012. Yes, as a nation we do not have such medal winning achievements in removing that causes of fire and preventing them from occurring, though like the Team Gymnastics, we have a bright and successful present and future.

Keep calm and carry on!
So we were working on the assumption that in the event of a fire we all get out, go home to our loved ones and live to fight another day. Well yes, but there is another important element to ensure this: your people! Just like our cyclists and rowers needed to train to be prepared for their gold medal winning performances, so do your staff for when the alarm goes off or smoke is seen or smelled. In this way your employees and Fire Wardens know enough to get themselves, your customers and visitors out safely, without panicking, stampeding, or going the wrong way and getting trapped by flames, heat or smoke.

Having regular fire drills and induction training for all staff, plus more detailed training for Fire Wardens and more hazardous sites will boost your team’s 2012 performance in these categories:

  • Raising the alarm;
  • Evacuation, including disabled persons;
  • Isolating fuel supplies e.g. mains gas;
  • Switching off equipment e.g. forced air systems;
  • Fire extinguishers (if appropriate);
  • Meeting at the fire assembly point for registration;
  • Contacting the Fire Service;
  • Meeting the Fire Service and providing information e.g. people, the premises and fuels.

Fire: gold, silver and bronze.
Strange as it may sound, every fire starts with a ‘triangle’, meaning that three factors need to come together for it to occur. Let’s think of controlling these factors as winning gold, silver and bronze:

  • Firstly, in bronze position is oxygen: tough to eliminate, as everyone would be dead(!), but the concentration e.g. removal of oxyacetylene (remember the closure of the A12 and London train line) or oxygen bottles and supply (air conditioning, or oxidising chemicals) of oxygen can be achieved;
  • In silver medal position is fuel sources: more important, as you have some degree of control because whilst there will be fuels around to some extent e.g. carpets and paper, they can be constructed to fire retardancy standards e.g. office furniture, and don’t need to be in copious amounts – scan and shred your paperwork, but not like PHS Datashred in Rackheath;
  • For gold and becoming the (fire) champion is sources of ignition: your goal and essential to eliminate, as what need is there to have flames, hot surfaces or electricity in contact with fuels?

Is your team trained so that you don’t need the chariots of fire?

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