In an emergency situation, first responders such as fire, police, or medical personnel are often first on the scene to help resolve the emergency and keep everyone safe. But did you know there are several ways you can work with first responders before emergencies happen to help prevent crisis situations? Taking preventive measures make it easier for first responders to help you. Master Technician Andrew Sullivan has more than 10 years of firefighting experience. We spoke with him on how churches and schools can work with their local fire departments to prevent emergencies and be prepared should one arise.Solutions: What are some ways church congregations/schools can work with fire departments to prepare for fire-related emergencies?
Sullivan: The easiest thing you can do is give someone at the fire department access to your building, a copy of your emergency plan, and your emergency contact information. This can reduce the amount of time it takes for us to get inside the building if there is an emergency during off-hours, and help reduce the damage to your structure because we won’t have to break the doors down to gain access in an emergency situation.
Solutions: How often should a church touch base with local fire first responders?
Sullivan: At least annually, but whenever your emergency contact information or emergency plan changes.
Solutions: How can a local fire department help a church be prepared or prevent fire emergencies?
Sullivan: You can ask, and most fire departments will do something for you. Each jurisdiction has different things. Many agencies in this area have a public education program that teaches kids fire safety, helps families put together emergency plans, and covers how to dial 911. In my jurisdiction, the local fire department does fire inspections. They drive to local businesses and walk through the building. This helps familiarize firefighters with the building and firefighters comment on things that can be done that could potentially make your building safer. Basically [this is] what a fire marshal does, but without giving tickets or fines for items that aren’t up to code.
Solutions: What are some things churches can do to make it easier for fire first responders in an emergency situation?
Sullivan: Keep the fire lanes clear at all times. Parking in a fire lane really interrupts response. Even if people are sitting or idling in their cars, [those parked in the fire lane] can’t respond fast enough to clear the area in an emergency. First responders will be delayed significantly because we can’t park where we need to park, and fire trucks have very specific places they need to park in order to do their unique jobs.
In a medical emergency in large buildings like churches, it’s nice to have someone meet us at the door and walk us to the patient instead of us wandering around the building looking for the incident.
Solutions: What are three things first responders wish citizens knew or did in a fire emergency situation?
- Don’t be a hero if you are not trained for the situation. If you injure yourself, now we are dealing with two patients instead of one.
- When you call 911, the more details you can provide the better.
- Don’t park in a fire lane and don’t sit idle in the fire lane.
Solutions: If a church is going to hold a fire drill, is there anything they should do beforehand?
Sullivan: If you are utilizing a fire alarm system, work with your alarm company to be sure you won’t trigger a fire alarm, so the fire department won’t get dispatched. Responding to false alarms takes fire first responders out of service while they respond to your alarm and prevents them from being able to respond to real emergencies. In some jurisdictions, false alarms can also incur fines.
Get Connected: Reach Out to Local First RespondersEvery community has a network of first responders that are ready to help should an emergency occur. But by reaching out and connecting with first responders before an emergency arises, you are able to provide them with the information needed to better respond to your crisis. Connect with your local first responders and ask for their assistance. Allow them to conduct a fire inspection and make a note of the areas that need to be addressed, setting a deadline for completion. Alert your local first responders of when you will hold a fire drill in your church.
Each of these steps will allow for a better connection between your church and your local first responders. For more information on fire safety, visit SafetySabbath.com.