Talkin’ Code with Andrew Getty

Fire procedure

Okay kids, what do you do when the fire alarm goes off?

At a very young age we [yes, we were kids too] are taught to leave the building, in a calm and orderly manner, when the fire alarm is activated.

This has been standard procedure since at least the 1960’s.

This may not include all of us in the “older” generation, but it certainly includes most of us.

All through school, from kindergarten through high school, there are mandated fire alarm and evacuation drills.

Some were scheduled; others were random; all mandated by the Department of Education.

In general the concept has never changed. The alarm goes off, everybody drops what they are doing then in a calm, orderly manner, leave the building.

Pretty simple concept. Get out and wait for the fire department.

There are many other types of occupancies that have very strict procedures of fire alarm activation and evacuation.

Hospitals, prisons, colleges, high rise structures, are all good examples.

Obviously different occupancies have different challenges of health & life safety or security type issues.

But the concept does not change… they get out of the building.

Bigger places like hospitals may have “safe” areas to go to.

These places were designed for quick access for emergency responders, provide a high level of fire safety and will always have communication to the outside world.

How many people out there assume that these procedures only apply to schools and hospitals?

Apparently, quite a few, even right here in our little town.

The simple concept of immediately leaving the building applies to all buildings, especially buildings for public use.

Restaurants, bars, apartment buildings, hotels, public assemblies, malls, stores, office buildings, theaters and yes, even libraries.

When the fire alarm goes off in a public building the staff needs to be telling people to leave the building immediately, without hesitation.

Your instincts should be to leave because of all the years of training back in school tells you to.

Common sense should be telling you.

Nowhere, in all the years of training, did the teachers tell you to ignore the alarm and keep doing what you were doing.

The alarm goes off, get out of the building.

When the fire department shows up, and they will, they are trained and equipped to check out the building and then only they can order the alarm be silenced.

A catastrophic event can evolve fast… really fast.

A simple trash can fire, or electrical problem can fester into a major event in seconds.

Telling people to ignore the alarm is quite frankly potentially deadly and rather stupid.

Get the people out; let the fire department do their thing.

Old wood frame structures used as an area of public assembly are inherently dangerous.

Sure, measures are taken to make as safe as possible.

During major renovations different things can be done to make the old building safer.

Things like fire stopping in floor and wall systems to prevent, or at least slow down the spread of smoke or fire in concealed areas.

Old balloon framing can allow smoke, heat and flames to travel throughout the entire structure in seconds.

Once fire starts in a concealed cavity, like in between studs or floor joists, those concealed spaces will act like multiple chimneys and literally pull the smoke, heat and fire through everything in seconds… not minutes, literally seconds.

When the alarm goes off, there is a reason… you may only have a very short time to get people out safely… so do it!!!

If it ends up being a false alarm, isn’t that great!!!

Oh yeah, one other quick note… All these automatic smoke and fire detection systems, even fire suppression and sprinkler systems are great, they save many lives every day.

However, there is only one little condition… THEY HAVE TO BE LEFT TURNED ON.

Imagine that.

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