Developing a business fire safety plan

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - As the cleanup continues at Humphrey's Bar and Grill following a fire Tuesday that Huntsville Fire & Rescue investigators ruled accidental, we talked to fire officials about the essentials that should be in a business's fire safety plan.

At Humphrey's Tuesday, firefighters said the fire started in the kitchen area at the grill and spread to a wall. Patrons and staff evacuated.

We obtained a copy of the restaurant's inspection form the fire marshal's office completed on March 13, 2019, a month before the fire. No issues were noted on inspection, except a small administrative notation that had no impact on the inspection results. Items in every category, from the exterior, to exit signs, means of egress, and fire suppression systems, was satisfactory.

Compliance is crucial because of what can happen during an emergency.

Dan Wilkerson, Huntsville Fire Marshal, said his office does routine inspections like that one in the city, according to adopted codes. Businesses will be written up and given opportunities to correct any violations.

He told us what a safety evacuation plan should be like.

"They are usually for businesses, like large office buildings. We focus on: two ways out, exiting your nearest exit, also location of fire alarm devices and fire extinguishers. We want people to be aware of where their fire extinguisher is located in case they choose to use it," he said.

There are other things businesses and people inside them should note, too.

"We want them to know where the pull stations are for the fire alarm so they can activate the alarm," he explained. "Early initiation of the alarm is crucial in mitigating a fire and getting everyone out safely."

And any business's fire safety plan should also include what to do in case you need to leave the building.

"Your fire safety plan should include where you should go, when you exit. You want to exit out the nearest exit door. Also when you're outside you want to have a meeting place so we can get accountability that everyone is out of the building," he stated.

Wilkinson explained that it's also important for everyone in the business to follow policies and common sense, keeping combustibles away from heat sources.

But if it's a business like Humphrey's, where it's considered a "place of assembly" with patrons coming in and out, there's something you can do to help with safety.

Wilkinson said, "One of the things we want to encourage our citizens to do is when they frequent businesses, to know where the exits are," he said. "Obviously, we know the exit that we came in, but there are other exits there too. When an emergency happens, we want you to be aware."

He added that you should also note where the fire extinguishers are because they should be kept visible and accessible.

And if you notice something is not the way it needs to be, he asks you to notify inspectors.

"We routinely inspect businesses, and usually we strive to get to every business at least once a year. But in between those inspections, sometimes you get exit doors that are blocked and some unsafe conditions. If you see an unsafe condition, report it to us. And we will send an inspector out to look into it."

You can call them to report a Huntsville fire hazard at (256) 427-5150.

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