In the early morning hours of June 14, (2017) 80 people lost their lives in a towering inferno in West London. The Grenfell Tower tragedy has been the subject of much discussion since that horrific day. Facilities managers have been asked if they have overlooked anything or should adopt any new measures to eliminate the risk of such death and destruction repeating itself.
Building safety encompasses many different categories. One of those categories is exits or evacuation routes. When exits are not clear or are blocked, it poses an obvious danger. Fire safety experts report that they have witnessed everything from evacuation paths blocked by items to vehicles being parked at ground level in the area of fire exit doors. It is imperative that facilities managers’ work hard to ensure all access routes are kept clear. Some fire and rescue officials point out that we can’t forget to make fire safety a priority during building renovations. It is during construction periods that many building managers are tempted to let things slide but egress routes must not be compromised under any circumstance.
Another category is safety systems. This includes sprinklers, alarms, and extinguishers. Do yours work? Performing regular checks to ensure that all systems are in working order is equally as important as maintaining clear exits.
While not all buildings are high-rise, they do pose challenges when exiting. For instance if the power goes out, how will occupants be able to see their way out? This is something building managers have to think about. Do they have systems in place so people can see their way through hallways? Do their exit signs require electricity? Have they considered photoluminescent exit signs and egress pathway markings?
Toronto Fire Services suggest that high-rise buildings have a survival kit for tenants that is readily available should people become trapped during a blaze. They believe the following items may improve chances of surviving a serious fire:
• Wet towel – Place at the base of a door
• Duct tape – Tape over door and vent openings
• Foil wrap – Use to cover vent openings
• A whistle – Used to signal for help
• Flashlight – Used in event of power failure, smoke or to signal for help
• Bright-coloured cloth – Hang in the window or balcony to identify your location.• Fire safety plan – Having a copy of your building’s emergency plan can be helpful.
There are many measures both a building manager and tenant can take, whether it is a high-rise or low-rise structure. Proper safety measures and preparedness provide a fighting chance when it comes to escaping an inferno. As any firefighter will point out, it only takes seconds for many people to succumb to a blaze.