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Assisting fire fighting with emergency folders

At a glance

  • Emergency folders can assist the fire service with dynamic risk assessment upon their arrival at a burning building
  • They are relatively cost-effective for organisations to compile, yet they may significantly improve damage limitation
  • We explain how to create your own emergency folders and what they should include

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Extensive fire detection or sprinkler systems may be helpful in dealing with a fire, but a simple cost-effective risk document can also have a real impact on how a fire is tackled at your premises.

Before the fire service tackles a fire, an assessment of the incident must be carried out. This assessment must be undertaken in what is a rapidly evolving, hazardous and dynamic environment.

Firefighters are experienced in assessing risk, and information is one of the key components used in deciding which strategy to adopt. Having relevant and concise information easily to hand can only help. This may often mean just tackling the fire from the outside, to prevent fire spreading to adjoining buildings.

An emergency folder is a vital fire-fighting element for any building. Being able to pass it on to the fire brigade when they first arrive could mean the difference between a successful fire-fighting operation and the total loss of the building and its contents.

Emergency services should be made familiar with a fire action plan and a senior person nominated to meet the fire and rescue service when they arrive, to provide them with any information required. They should have an intimate knowledge of the premises.

If there is no-one on site when the fire service arrives, it is crucial that the emergency folder can provide this central source of detailed information to help deal with any fire.

Allow fire service to quickly assess the risks

The emergency folder should be comprehensive but concise, allowing the fire service to quickly assess the risks inside a building, by helping them build up a picture of the materials involved, if any hazardous substances are present, the layout of a building and how the fabric of a building will respond to fire.

What should an emergency folder contain?

To maximise the impact of the fire services tackling the blaze, an emergency folder should contain the following:

• Floor plans with details of hazardous materials and substances, including any associated risks (cylinders, chemicals, radiation sources, biohazards, highly flammable liquids, oxidising substances, etc.)

• Details of building occupation and of its construction, including escape routes

• Photographs of the building from different elevations

• Locations of isolation points for electricity, gas and water, as well as emergency telephone numbers for the public utilities

• Other useful information, such as the presence and location of asbestos and fire hydrants, and instructions regarding the salvage of high-value items

• Where there is no 24 hour presence on site, details of ‘who to refer to’ and contact details of key staff should be included

However, care needs to be taken to ensure that only information relevant to the fire service is contained within the folder. This will allow quicker decision-making based on essential facts.

Enormous benefit

It’s the comprehensive assessment of possible dangers that makes emergency folders of such benefit to the fire service. It is important, too, that emergency folders are routinely reviewed, ideally annually, in line with the fire risk assessment and located somewhere where it can be easily found and taken off the premises to the assembly point if a fire starts. In small, low-risk premises the folder may only need to contain a few sheets of paper.

However, emergency folders can contain sensitive data and security information, and care must be taken to ensure they are kept safe and secure at all times, especially if they are located near the main entrance of a building. Housing them in a permanently manned security office in a locked box may be a solution.

Emergency folders are relatively cost-effective for your customers to compile and, as every minute counts when trying to control a fire, they can significantly improve outcomes by helping the fire service quickly jump into action, enabling decisive and effective action.

It is important to ‘test’ the details within the folder in the event of an emergency, for any omissions or amendments required. It may be that the local brigade may be able to assist with this.

To discuss any aspect of this article further, speak to your usual Zurich contact.

You can also find out more and access helpful guides and insight with our Fire Risk Resource.

Image © Getty

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