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Fire safety refers to precautions that are taken to prevent or reduce the likelihood of a fire that may result in death, injury, or property damage, alert those in a structure to the presence of an uncontrolled fire in the event one occurs, better enable those threatened by fire to survive in and evacuate from affected areas, or to reduce the damage caused by a fire. Fire safety measures include those that are planned during the construction of a building or implemented in structures that are already standing, and those that are taught to occupants of the building.
Threats to fire safety are referred to as fire hazards. A fire hazard may include a situation that increases the likelihood a fire may start or may impede escape in the event a fire occurs.
Fire safety is often a component of building safety. Those who inspect buildings for violations of the Fire Code and go into schools to educate children on Fire Safety topics are fire department members known as fire prevention officers. The Chief Fire Prevention Officer or Chief of Fire Prevention will normally train newcomers to the Fire Prevention Division and may also conduct inspections or make presentations.
Examples of these include:
Some common fire hazards are:
In the United States, the fire code (also fire prevention code or fire safety code) is a model code adopted by the state or local jurisdiction and enforced by fire prevention officers within municipal fire departments. It is a set of rules prescribing minimum requirements to prevent fire and explosion hazards arising from storage, handling, or use of dangerous materials, or from other specific hazardous conditions. It complements the building code. The fire code is aimed primarily at preventing fires, ensuring that necessary training and equipment will be on hand, and that the original design basis of the building, including the basic plan set out by the architect, is not compromised. The fire code also addresses inspection and maintenance requirements of various fire protection equipment in order to maintain optimal active fire protection and passive fire protection measures.
A typical fire safety code includes administrative sections about the rule-making and enforcement process, and substantive sections dealing with fire suppression equipment, particular hazards such as containers and transportation for combustible materials, and specific rules for hazardous occupancies, industrial processes, and exhibitions.
Sections may establish the requirements for obtaining permits and specific precautions required to remain in compliance with a permit. For example, a fireworks exhibition may require an application to be filed by a licensed pyrotechnician, providing the information necessary for the issuing authority to determine whether safety requirements can be met. Once a permit is issued, the same authority (or another delegated authority) may inspect the site and monitor safety during the exhibition, with the power to halt operations, when unapproved practices are seen or when unforeseen hazards arise.
Most U.S. fire departments have fire safety education programs.
Fire prevention programs may include distribution of smoke detectors, visiting schools to review key topics with the students and implementing nationally recognized programs such as NFPAs "Risk Watch" and "Learn not to burn".
Other programs or props can be purchased by fire departments or community organizations. These are usually entertaining and designed to capture children's attention and relay important messages. Props include those that are mostly auditory, such as puppets and robots. The prop is visually stimulating but the safety message is only transmitted orally. Other props are more elaborate, access more senses and increase the learning factor. They mix audio messages and visual cues with hands-on interaction. Examples of these include mobile trailer safety houses and tabletop hazard house simulators. Some fire prevention software is also being developed to identify hazards in a home.
All programs tend to mix messages of general injury prevention, safety, fire prevention, and escape in case of fire. In most cases the fire department representative is regarded as the expert and is expected to present information in a manner that is appropriate for each age group.
The US industry standard that outlines the recommended qualifications for fire safety educators is NFPA 1035: Standard for Professional Qualifications for Public Fire and Life Safety Educator, 2005 Edition. This standard is currently being revised and the newest edition is slated for release in 2010. According to NFPA, 1035 specifically covers the requirements for Fire and Life Safety Educator Levels I, II, and III; Public Information Officer; and Juvenile Firesetter Intervention Specialist Levels I and II.
According to the United States Fire Administration, the very young and the elderly are considered to be "at risk" populations. These groups represent approximately 33% of the population.
A fire safety plan is required by all North American national, state and provincial fire codes based on building use or occupancy types. Generally, the owner of the building is responsible for the preparation of a fire safety plan. Buildings with elaborate emergency systems may require the assistance of a fire protection consultant. After the plan has been prepared, it must be submitted to the Chief Fire Official or authority having jurisdiction for approval. Once approved, the owner is responsible for implementing the fire safety plan and training all staff in their duties. It is also the owner’s responsibility to ensure that all visitors and staff are informed of what to do in case of fire. During a fire emergency, a copy of the approved fire safety plan must be available for the responding fire department's use.
Fire safety plans are a useful tool for fire fighters to have because they allow them to know critical information about a building that they may have to go into. Using this, fire fighters can locate and avoid potential dangers such as hazardous material (hazmat) storage areas and flammable chemicals.
In addition to this, fire safety plans can also provide specialized information that, in the case of a hospital fire, can provide information about the location of things like the nuclear medicine ward. In addition to this, fire safety plans also greatly improve the safety of fire fighters. According to FEMA, 16 percent of all fire fighter deaths in 2002 occurred due to a structural collapse or because the fire fighter got lost. Fire safety plans can outline any possible structural hazards, as well as give the fire fighter knowledge of where he is in the building.
In North America alone, there are around 8 million buildings that legally require a fire safety plan, be it due to provincial or state law. Not having a fire safety plan for buildings which fit the fire code occupancy type can result in a fine, and they are required for all buildings, such as commercial, industrial, assembly, etc.
As previously stated, a copy of the approved fire safety plan shall be available for the responding fire department. This, however, is not always the case. Up until now, all fire plans were stored in paper form in the fire department. The problem with this is that sorting and storing these plans is a challenge, and it is difficult for people to update their fire plans. As a result, only half of the required buildings have fire plans, and of those, only around 10 percent are up-to-date. This problem has been solved through the introduction of digital fire plans. These fire plans are stored in a database and can be accessed wirelessly on site by firefighters and are much simpler for building owners to update.