6 ways to prepare for fire emergencies

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fire safety streamAs summer approaches and Alabama’s normally lush green grass gets drier, it can be normal to see a burn restriction from the Alabama Forestry Commission. But UAB's location in the concrete jungle of Birmingham’s Southside doesn’t mean there is no risk for fire. In fact, according to the American Red Cross, fires kill more Americans each year than all other natural disasters combined.

Fire preparedness is key when working in high-rise buildings filled with electrical items, and 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. The Red Cross recommends keeping any flammable item at least three feet from anything that gets hot, such as space heaters.

Also, avoid overloading outlets and extension cords, and call UAB Facilities if you see frayed cords, exposed wires, loose plugs or electric outlets without cover plates.

Memorize the location of your building’s fire extinguishers.

If you’re in a large building, UAB Occupational Health and Safety post signs to help locate the 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.

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. UAB also has its own basic emergency response plan for building evacuations.

UAB Police, in its 2017 Fire and Safety Report, says keep hallways or stairwells free of bicycles or other equipment to make evacuation easier, and do not to attach them to fire equipment.

Avoid overloading outlets and extension cords. If you see any frayed cords, exposed wires, loose plugs or electric outlets without cover plates, alert UAB Facilities.

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.

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 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.