March 23, 2012 2 Comments
On March 25, 1911, workers were filing out of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory inNew York City when someone noticed a small fire in a scrap materials bin. The fire quickly spread out of control, and the factory’s employees frantically sought escape routes. Some were consumed by smoke or fire. Others leaped to their death from the building’s upper floors.
Nearly 150 did not make it out alive.
We have learned a lot about fire awareness and prevention since 1911. The Shirtwaist Factory incident is the rallying cry of fire safety efforts, spurring stricter fire, safety and building codes worldwide. Still, we have a long way to go.
The U.S. Fire Administration notes that there were nearly 1 million fires reported in the United States in 2007. Almost 10,000 people were injured. Another 1,900 lost their lives.
Furthermore, of 25 industrialized nations examined by the World Fire Statistics Center, the United States has the fifth highest death rate resulting from fires.
Employers can help reverse the trend by following a few tips. Every workplace is unique, but all fire safety programs should have at least one thing in common: simplicity.
Plan multiple evacuation routes
Intense heat and the sheer weight of people trying to escape caused the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory’s only evacuation route to collapse, trapping workers inside. The lesson: Plan multiple evacuation routes for every conceivable emergency situation.
Remember that a fire will probably call for a different evacuation procedure than a tornado or a power outage.
Post signs showing approved evacuation routes in all common areas and at exit points, should an alternate exit be needed.