UL: What to Do In Case of a Fire or Other Emergency in Your Office . . .

If a fire were to break out or other emergency were to arise in your workplace, would you know what to do? Planning ahead and keeping a level head can mean the difference between safety and danger.

The safety professionals at Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL), a not-for-profit testing and certification organization, offers these steps you can take to prevent accidents and loss of life in workplace emergencies.

Be prepared

* 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 your room. If the door is cool, open it slowly, but be prepared to quickly shut it if smoke or heat rush 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 Stay

* 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–jackets, towels, etc.

* 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.

* 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; rescue can take several hours.

Employer’s Role

* Your workplace should conduct regular mandatory fire drills at least twice a year.

* Building evacuation routes should also be posted throughout workplace buildings.

* Employees with special needs should be included in the emergency planning process.

* Fire exits and doorways should never be blocked. Promptly report any signs of malfunction or blockage to building management.

Commercial buildings, whether low- or high-rise, are constructed with fire-resistive materials that resist fire spread for a certain amount of time, allowing occupants greater time to evacuate in case of a fire.

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