Being Prepared in Fire Safety: Pre-Incident Planning
Most companies understand the importance of emergency response planning for a variety of emergencies including fire, but many do not take the additional step to create a Pre-Incident Plan with their local responding fire department.
There is no substitute for being prepared. Pre-incident planning is critical to safe and effective firefighting operations, particularly at industrial and manufacturing facilities.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) defines a Pre-Incident Plan as “a document developed by gathering general and detailed data that is used by responding personnel in effectively managing emergencies for the protection of occupants, responding personnel, property, and the environment.” (NFPA 1620- 2010 Ed)
Pre-incident planning with the local fire department facilitates the transfer of critical information to first-responders that can guide their response to a fire incident and improve their response capabilities, which may ultimately save lives and reduce property damage and business interruption.
NFPA 1620- Standard for Pre-Incident Planning, provides formal guidance for creating a comprehensive Pre-Incident Plan. In addition, here is some information that can help you get started. Creating an effective pre-incident plan involves compiling and providing information to the local responding fire department including the following:
- Company name
- Property Address
- Driving directions
- Access barriers such as narrow bridges, steep or narrow roads, RR crossings
- Access Code for gates/doors
- Electronic Access Card
- Knox Box location
- Aerial Photo of the site
- Number of stories (above grade, below grade)
- Building length & width
- Building construction (non-Combustible, fire resistive, ordinary, masonry noncombustible, modified fire resistive, frame)
- Site Plan
- Significant buildings
- Separation between buildings
- Hydrant locations and other available water sources
- Fences and gates
- Low-hanging power lines
- Electrical transformers
- Location of shut-offs for water, LP gas, electrical, solar panels, HVAC, & emergency power
- Floor plans
- Major partitions and doors (locations of firewalls, and fire doors)
- Location of stairs and stairwells
- Location of elevators
- Location of sprinkler control valves and the areas controlled by each valve
- Location of fire pump(s)
- Location of standpipes, hose stations, and hose outlets
- Exit door locations and interior stairwells
- Access to roof top venting devices
- Location of roof access ladders
- Hazardous materials present & their quantity, container type/size, and location in the building or on the property
- Water supply information (city water, city water with booster pump, or pump and tank, pond/lake, elevated tank)
- Roof shape (flat, pitched, arched, hip, dome, shed, etc.)
- Roof type & covering
- Roof penetration including skylights or smoke vents
- Location of attic access doors, hatches, or ladders
- Indicate which areas and buildings have sprinkler protection
- Confirm defensible space around the building including turn around capability, and access to all sides of the building
- Location of buried tanks on-site
- Typical # of occupants (day/night)
- Any occupants requiring special assistance with evacuation and their location in the building
- Emergency evacuation plan (tested annually) with designated assembly area
- Occupancy (special hazards, warehousing)
- Square footage (total, basement, 1st floor, 2nd floor etc.)
- Protection (sprinklers, gaseous suppression, dry chemical, foam systems, etc. & location)
- Fire alarm system information, detection, manual pull stations, and notifications appliances, location of fire alarm control panels and annunciators
Pre-incident planning helps facilitate an effective response by the local fire department, and also minimizes risk to occupants and first-responders, property assets, and business interruption for the businesses occupying the building.
Property owners should invite the local responding fire department to visit their facility, including rank-and-file firefighters, to help them gain a familiarity with the company’s operations, as well as the hazards, protection, and construction features of the facility. Ideally, this invitation should be extended to the fire suppression Battalion Chief responsible for the first responding station, plus the crew at that station from each shift.
This visit from local firefighters should be repeated annually to ensure new firefighters, assigned to the responding fire station, are familiar with the facility. Many property owners elect to provide lunch for the visiting firefighters to show appreciation, along with efforts to update the Pre-Incident Plan.
Firefighters’ direct knowledge of a building’s features, hazards, and layout is often the most important factor in facilitating an effective response and attack in a fire situation. Having a Pre-Incident Plan in place with the responding fire department can make a difference in their strategy choice of offensive or defensive fire attack pathways, which may ultimately determine the extent of the fire loss.