To fight or evacuate when faced with a fire is a critical decision. The ultimate goal is the protection of life.
Decide to Fight
Small laboratory fires are not uncommon and when properly trained to use a fire extinguisher, healthcare workers can contain and extinguish the beginning stages of a fire. The decision to fight a fire is based on the policies and procedures of the individual laboratory.
Do NOT attempt to fight a fire unless ALL of the following are TRUE:
- The fire is small, contained, and has NOT spread past the point of origin
- The exit is clear and you can stay low and fight the fire with your back to the exit
- You can avoid smoke
- You are trained to use the fire extinguisher and the appropriate extinguisher is in the immediate vicinity
- The fire alarm has been activated
- Personnel have been evacuated from the vicinity of the fire
It is also important not to use more than one fire extinguisher at the same time. In that scenario, it is possible to "blow" the fire on top of another person.
If the slightest doubt exists about control of the situation, staff should evacuate. Evacuate immediately if the extinguisher is empty and the fire is not out. Evacuate immediately if the fire progresses beyond the incipient stage. OSHA defines the incipient stage as the initial or beginning stage of the fire when the fire can be controlled or extinguished by portable fire extinguishers, Class ll standpipes, or small hose systems without the need for protective clothing or breathing apparatus.
- Staff members should NEVER be required to fight a fire.
- Remember to close the door behind you when evacuating.
- When the staff evacuates the workplace, a predetermined employee meeting place should have been identified. In the event of an emergency, conducting a head count at the designated meeting place will help to determine if anyone is missing.