You’ll find that in most any business, it is a requirement that all staff have undergone fire safety training, in accordance with the Fire Safety Order. But there are certain members of staff who will need to undergo further training in order to become the designated Fire Warden. You usually need at least 3 trained fire wardens so that you can ensure there will be at least 2 in the building during all working hours.
So what exactly does a Fire Warden do? Well this year I was required to find out as my employer asked me if I’d be happy to take on the role, so I attended Fire Marshal and Warden Safety Training. I work for a local university so basically as the fire warden my duty is to encourage staff, students, contractors and visitors to leave the building immediately if the fire alarm sounds at any other time than during the weekly test. Because it’s a very large building, there are several fire wardens on duty at any given time and we each have a designated area that we are responsible for making sure is clear following the alarm. I then have to report to the Fire Assembly Point Coordinator at the Assembly Point.
There are several things I learned during my training that are absolute musts for a fire warden. Firstly I made sure I was familiar with all of the escape routes and exits from my search area on my return to work following my training. This is because, as part of my role, I’m required to encourage everyone to leave the building using all available routes and exits. During an alarm, I need to check all the accessible rooms in my area (including toilets) on my way out. I must close all doors behind me in an effort to prevent the spread of fire. The university has fire doors, but I’m aware that not all work places do. When I reach the Fire Assembly Point I have to report anyone left in the building to the Assembly Point Co-ordinator. The university operates a signing in system so that we know everybody that is in the building at any given time . . . which is fine so long as everybody remembers to sign out!
There are also several things that I learned NEVER to do in my role. It’s not the fire warden’s responsibility to put themselves at risk by staying in the building for longer than needed. We are talking about a quick check of your area on exit. Any rescuing is to be done by the fire brigade! You never re-enter the building or go upstairs if the alarm has sounded . . . if you’re unable to check a certain area or room, just report it to the Fire Assembly Point Co-Ordinator. You must never try to enter locked or obstructed areas – again, just report them to the Fire Assembly Point Co-Ordinator. Don’t stand and argue with people who refuse to leave . . . report it. Lifts are never to be used in the event of a fire for any reason. It’s not my job to fight the fire, although I’ve had basic training in the different uses of different fire extinguishers and how to use them, so if the fire was small and it was safe for me to do so, it would probably be sensible in order to stop it from spreading!
Because our building is so large we have several fire assembly points. It’s my responsibility to know where the assembly point for my area is, although we do have Fire Action Notices throughout the building that state where the assembly point it, but it’s easy for people to forget them especially if they’re in a panic. I need to tell the staff and students where the assembly point is and that they need to go there, when the alarm has sounded. If needed I might have to assist the Fire Assembly Point Co-Ordinator by perhaps giving some information to colleagues.
The university provides refuges for people with disabilities who may be unable to use the stairs in an emergency. It’s my role only to direct them to the nearest refuge and I am not to attempt to rescue them myself. I’m only to report that they are waiting in the refuge to the Fire Assembly Point Co-Ordinator.
Fire Assembly Point Co-Ordinators can be identified at the university by high visibility armbands or jackets, which I think is fairly standard across the board of all businesses. They receive reports from all of the fire wardens that they then pass on to the security and fire services. They tell everyone when it is safe to re-enter the building on confirmation from a fire officer.
Everyone can help to prevent fires starting and spreading by following these rules:
* Keep work and storage areas and equipment clean and tidy
* Report piles of rubbish and poor waste disposal
* Keep flammable substances in proper containers with lids on, in suitable metal storage cabinets. Empty containers should be disposed of safely.
* Only smoke in the designated smoking area outside of the building and dispose of cigarettes safely.
* Keep fire doors closed.
* Keep fire exits clear at all times
* Report damage to fire safety equipment e.g. extinguishers, alarms and fire doors.
Your company should have policies and procedures that cover fire safety that you can access in order to be sure of what your specific responsibilities are. It might seem over zealous, but in the event of a real emergency you will never be sorry that you knew EXACTLY what you were doing.