Fire Pre-Plans: How to Make them Work for Industrial Facilities

Steve Bassine

Every industrial facility is different which is why it's important that fire pre-plans are tailored to each facility.

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For industrial facilities such as chemical processing plants and manufacturing facilities, creating site-specific fire pre-plans and sharing them with first responders prior to an actual emergency is critical to the safety of employees and responders.

Off the shelf, generic plan templates will not address every site-specific aspect of a facility. On the other hand, an enterprise-wide template serves as an outline of required information, populated with site details and may be useful to responders if highlighted in a stand-alone format.

Fire pre-plans should include, but not be limited to the following:

  • Building/site layout information
  • Fire suppression information
  • Hazards locations
  • Utility information
  • Exposure information
  • Water supply
  • Evacuation needs
  • Occupancy information
  • Special procedures for handling, storage and control of items that have been identified as major fire hazards
  • Mutual aid resources

For chemical manufacturing facilities, which face a higher fire hazard, some unique aspects should be included:

  • Chemical properties
  • PPE requirements
  • Potential community evacuation

Fire pre-plans help ensure a coordinated, expedient and safe response in the event of a fire. But they are only effective if accurate and pertinent information is included. Depending on the operation, pre-plans can range from the simple to complex. Some of the aspects listed above will apply to all facilities and some will be unique to each location. Utilizing customizable plans allows each site to provide the necessary data required to assist responders in determining the best response for the specific scenario.

Advice from First Responders

Responders continually verify the importance of fire pre-plan simplicity, clarity and accuracy. Plan formats should reflect best practices and should be periodically reviewed by the responding fire department. From the initial information-gathering phase, to a pre-plan application during the response; critical response information must be shared to ensure a timely and effective response.

Below is a compilation of fire pre-plan helpful hints from various first responders and fire departments:

Storage and Plan Access: Implement a means of easily accessible pre-plan storage and retrieval. Web-based pre-plans can offer password-protected accessibility options.

Updates: Update plans and communicate with external responders and fire departments often. Include status updates of new building construction and renovations being performed.

Plan formats: Create easy-to-read formats. Responders may be reading these plans at night, in periods of limited light and in inclement weather. The easier to read, the better it is for all responders. Separate large complexes into color-coded quadrants. Response strategies can be developed for each quadrant, making it much easier to respond to fires in large complexes.

Site Access: Update external responders on perimeter gate entry codes whenever changes are made. Identify location of alarm panel locations and key box locations.

Hazardous Materials: Specify location and identity of stored hazardous materials. Include known quantities of hazardous materials, if applicable.

Training and Exercises: Coordinate response exercises with fire department training drills.

Best Practices and Advancements: Implement lessons learned and new firefighting tactics and equipment into response plans.

Just as fire extinguishers are accessible to employees, response plans must be accessible to responders. Industrial facilities should involve local fire departments and specialized emergency responders in the development of fire pre-plans and conduct coordinated fire drills to ensure the safety of individuals and response capabilities of responders. For chemical and other manufacturers with numerous locations, establishing customized, company-wide response plan templates can ensure a cohesive, yet site-specific standardization of best practices.

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