In the US alone, in a five-year period, fire departments have reported an approximate average of 353,100 fires per year. Due to this, there has been an annual average of $7.2 billion for property damage, 2,620 deaths of civilians, and 11,030 injured civilians. With that much casualties, it is given that states and non-government organizations have put out maximum effort in order to strengthen proactive measures to prevent fire, as well as further the development of the accessibility to contact fire departments in cases of fire actually happening. One of these measures is employing risk assessments in establishments, apartment complexes, or homes in general. The use of a fire risk assessment checklist is truly apparent.

What is a fire risk assessment checklist?

When establishing buildings for businesses, for instance, they assign a personal officer responsible to conduct an inspection all around. Their primary task is to identify possible hazards and risks within the place, and it is mandated by law to employ a fire risk assessment as a form of preemptive measures by virtue of the precedence of proliferation of fire incidents. The business is required to keep an official record or document of the discovered findings. This is where the fire risk assessment checklist comes in handy, since it outlines the important concerns to be attended to by the officer, and reminds them of the things he or she should look into and gauge within the location. A fire risk assessment checklist is simply an array of possible risks relating to fire which the officer checks if they coincide with the condition of the place.

What are the kinds of fire?

It is important to know the different kinds of fire, since their distinction also dictates the kind of response that they need. Oxygen, fuel and heat are often referred to as the “fire triangle”, because they are the primary elements that make up flame in and of itself. However, even with such a uniform component origin, they are still able to be divided by different levels, for the variety of locations they may take place in, as well as how they were started. Here, the kinds of fire will be discussed, as well as possible solutions, and their degree of severity and urgency.

Class A : Class A fire involves usual flammable items such as cloth, paper, wood, plastic, and rubber. These are things that are very common and could probably be found everywhere, which is why they are very likely causes of fire. In cases of Class A fire, these are relatively easier to extinguish as opposed to other classes. There are four compatible kinds of extinguishers that can effectively put out Class A Fire. The first one is the water extinguisher, which is the most budget-friendly way to fight this class of fire. It works through spraying water all over the affected areas, and gives out droplets of water in the form of either fog or mist. The smaller the droplets, the larger the area that can be reached by the extinguisher. Water extinguishers all have a red label. Other than that, Class A fire can also be fought with the foam extinguisher, wet chemical extinguisher, and dry powder extinguisherClass B : Class B fire involves flammable liquids such as oil, diesel, and petrol. It is advisable for an establishment to have a foam extinguisher ready nearby for emergency response purposes. The foam extinguisher gives a cooling effect that prevents ignition from sustaining as gives off a thick textured foam solution that removes oxygen, holding traces of water homogenized with foam which makes it able to extinguish Class B fire. It generally operates through smothering the fire by remove its air supply. Foam extinguishers have a cream label on their container for you to distinguish them better. A carbon dioxide extinguisher also work well against this class. Unlike the foam extinguisher, it does not leave any residue in the affected area.Class C : Class C fire involves anything gas, such as methane, propane, and butane. There is only one compatible extinguisher for this class, and that is the dry powder extinguisher. This is a versatile tool since it can be used for all Class A, B, and C. Although it is not advised to have nearby because of side effects such as loss of visibility and breathing problems, it still is the extinguisher strong enough to put out Class C fire. It works through interrupting the chemical reaction of fire by separating the fuel of the oxygen from the air itself. It sprays thin layers of dust on the affected area. Only a dry powder extinguisher can put out Class C fire.Class D : Class D fire involves metals such as titanium, magnesium, and aluminum. The L2 powder and M28 powder fire extinguishers are the only kinds that can combat this class of fire. M28 powder is based on sodium chloride, creating a crust on the surface of the metal, hence separating it from oxygen. It contains moisture repellent additives which make it very effective. The L2 powder’s make up is generally of magnesium stearate, graphite, and magnesium aluminium silicate. It works the same way as M28, but just has different chemical components.Class E : Class E fires concern electrical apparatus such as computers, home appliances, wires, and outlets. These are on top of the many reasons why fire occurs today, due to the prevalence of electric devices because of technological integration. It is very likely that Class E will take place in business establishments, considering the large amount of technology being used in those kinds of areas. With that, a carbon dioxide extinguisher and dry powder extinguisher can work well for Class E. The carbon dioxide extinguisher removes the oxygen supply of the flammable, or already flamed areas, while the dry powder extinguisher coats the surface area with crust, making it inaccessible to air.Class F : Class F involves fire related to cooking oil and fat. It can be extinguished with the use of a wet chemical extinguisher whose chemical make-up is potassium based. It attacks the flame by lowering the temperature, hence cooling the area and putting out the fire, and even prevent it from spreading further.

How to Assess Fire Risks

As the chosen officer with the responsibility to check the establishment for risks, it is important to know the steps in assessing fire hazards with the use of a fire risk assessment checklist. As the safety checklist guides you in what you should look into around the place, you should also know the process of how to operate in your position, as well as have knowledge on the important things that you should take into consideration, which are highly important to be kept a record of. This is a process to be taken meticulously in order for owners to be able to preempt future scenarios that could endanger lives and the livelihoods of people working for a certain company, for instance. Here is how you assess fire risks.

Step 1: Identifying the fire hazards

Risks pertain to the likelihood of a hazard occurring, while a hazard is something that has the potential to cause harm. To paint a clearer picture, wires, electrical circuits, and broken wires are the hazard, and fire is the risk. It is important to gauge very plausible areas or objects that can evidently cause fire in order for your corporation to know which locations need more protection against fire, because the urgency is better pictured out. Perhaps you could record major sources of heat within the establishment, or anything that can generate heat and flame such as technological devices, areas containing gas tanks, and the like. Areas where materials like paper, wood, and plastic should also be looked into, so the establishment can prepare a water extinguisher nearby for emergency uses.

Step 2: Building Structure

Buildings should be inclusive to people with disabilities, or people who have medical conditions that prevent them from functioning like others. But generally, it is important for buildings to have exit paths that are easy to navigate in, such as ramps, or other kinds of convenient structuring to help people who need it, especially in a state of panic. As the officer, you must point out the need for fire exits, the most convenient places to place them, and which part of the exterior building they could lead to for the safety of the people. It is important to safeguard people and workers ultimately, since they have the highest stake in these situations in comparison to the property itself.

Step 3: Implementation

Since fire risk assessments are ordered by law, it is simple logic to know that your establishment has to comply to the necessary standards and procedures that follow risk assessments. This means that shifts to your building structure may be demanded to be done, or the safeguarding of the areas that have high risks of flammability. This is to ensure that your establishment follows the law itself, reduces the risks of getting fire, and even if it does, at least there is a clear contingency measure to be done should things go south.

Step 4: Recording

After checking the different risks within the area using your fire risk assessment checklist, you must record the solutions that you have come up with to respond to these risks. These recordings are important to serve as precedence for future preparation training. This could be done to orient your workers on what to do in cases of fire. For everyone’s safety, it is important for everyone in the building to be coordinated regarding their knowledge on what to do, where they should evacuate, and where the exit points are in general. It is also a requirement to keep the recording at the end of the day.

Step 5: Reviewing and Revising

Overtime, buildings change regarding the areas of different departments, placement of workers, and the like. Because these things are evolving, your risk assessment should do. This record is done to cater to emergencies and respond to the assurance of safety of people, hence updates may need to be done regularly to ensure that your concerns are still in line with the current condition of the place in and of itself.

How long does a fire risk assessment take?

The duration of a fire risk assessment will vary based on the different sizes of buildings. For larger establishments, it is very likely that it will take a much longer time for the process to finish. But generally speaking, it should take 2-3 hours to finish inspecting a place regarding the risk of fire.

Is it necessary to hold a fire risk assessment every year?

It is mandated by the law for establishments to regularly conduct fire risk assessments due to the volatile nature of this accident. There is no one-size-fits-all policy that dictates the frequency of this assessment, however, as an establishment, you should also be weary of the changes that take place in your building. If there are any restructuring and replacement of departments or specific areas, a reassessment should take place in order to update the record, and keep it and your constituents up to date.

What are the key points of a fire risk assessment?

The key points that the assessment covers should be the risks, the hazards, the catering to the special needs of people, the building structure, the orienting of people who work in that certain building, and the constant update of the record for safety measures.

Being proactive is an important virtue, especially when you hold a hundred, or even a thousand lives. It is important for the well-being of workers to be sustained, and for these people to be prepared for accidents in the first place. Because of panic and fear, it is very likely for people to be irrational and act on impulses, which is why it is strategic for your company to observe proper information dissemination, and before doing that, conducting a fire risk assessment in order for you to know the important places for you to focus on, and improve the probable ways and exit points of people that lead them to safety.