6 ways to prepare for fire emergencies

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fire safety streamFire preparedness is key when working in high-rise buildings or typical office environments filled with electrical and combustible items and large equipment. UAB has several resources that, when coupled with personal initiatives, can help keep employees safe during a fire emergency.

Keep an eye on your appliances.

At UAB, portable space heaters are restricted to devices in which the heating element is limited to not more than 212 degrees and the power will disconnect if the device tips over. UAB Campus Safety and the Red Cross both recommend keeping any flammable items at least three feet from anything that gets hot, such as space heaters.

Also, avoid overloading outlets and extension cords, and contact UAB Facilities by submitting a work order or calling 934-WORK if you see frayed cords, exposed wires, loose plugs or electric outlets without cover plates.

Memorize the location of your building’s fire extinguishers and exits.

If you’re in a large building, UAB Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) can help you post signs to help employees locate extinguishers. The U.S. Department of Labor recommends using the PASS technique when operating a fire extinguisher: Pull the pin, aim low, squeeze the handle and sweep side to side.

Register for UAB’s emergency notification system, B-ALERT, at uab.edu/balert.

Always look for two ways out of a space, UAB Campus Safety recommends. Knowing an alternate route could save your life should the main exit through which you entered or with which you are familiar becomes blocked.

Additionally, keep hallways and stairwells free of bicycles or other equipment to make evacuation easier, and do not secure any items using fire equipment.

Know the fire emergency action plan for your building.

Each building administrator has a Building Emergency Action Plan, which is shared with new employees and can be explained upon request. If your facility needs a plan, training sessions or inspections, contact UAB Campus Safety.

Employees can also consult the EH&S Fire and Life Safety Program manual, which details information on codes and standards, emergency action plans, fire evacuation drills and the dos and don’ts of fire prevention and safety.

Keep gear in your office in case of an emergency.

Store a pair of heavy-duty footwear in your office in case of a difficult evacuation. Bottled water, a first-aid kit and a whistle to signal for help are also recommended items in ready.gov’s Build a Kit checklist.

Avoid overloading outlets and extension cords. If you see any frayed cords, exposed wires, loose plugs or electric outlets without cover plates, contact UAB Facilities by submitting a work order or calling 934-WORK.

Know where UAB’s 490-plus Help Phones are located.

Familiarize yourself with the location of Help Phones on your daily routes; they are a direct link to UAB Police and are monitored 24 hours a day. If you see a building fire and are not directly in harm’s way, call 911 or UAB Police.

Help Phones, operated by UAB Emergency Management, are in building hallways, elevators, parking lots, parking decks, between buildings and in other remote areas. To operate Help Phones in metal boxes, open the door and pick up the handset. To use the smaller, yellow Help Phones, press the red button once and wait for a dispatcher to answer. Elevator Help Phones are located behind a metal panel; to use, lift the handset and wait for the dispatcher. 

Sign up for B-ALERT.

Stay alert even if a fire isn’t happening in your unit’s building. UAB’s Emergency Management Team uses its emergency notification system to communicate through voice calls, SMS text messages and emails to the entire campus. You should routinely check your B-alert settings to make sure the contact information is correct.

Register for B-ALERT at uab.edu/balert.