Dan Corrigan
Dan Corrigan

Even after 23 years of conducting training, we continue to build our business one satisfied customer at a time. Interest is generated amongst your employees by creating a fun learning atmosphere

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The three most common ways office fires start are cooking equipment, electrical, and heating equipment. Fourth in line, at 10% of all office fires, are (surprisingly) fires started intentionally.

So aside from not setting a fire yourself at work, here are some things to do to prevent office fires and keep you and your coworkers safe.

Don’t Overload Power Strips

Just because your power strip has eight outlets, doesn’t mean you should use all eight, depending on what you’re plugging in. Things like appliances in the break room should absolutely not be sharing a power strip. Computers, desk fans, phone chargers don’t draw a ton of power alone, but be wary when plugging them all in to the same strip. Also, check your power strip’s cords from time to time to check for any fraying or breakage. Also check the outlets themselves, if any have blown out you may notice some slight discoloration and it is time to replace it, don’t risk it being a fire hazard.

Store Hazardous Materials Appropriately

When working in industries that use or store hazardous materials, workers must be conscious of storing these properly. Flammable materials must be labeled and stored properly, and all employees must know where they are located and how to handle them.

Check for Frayed Wires

Any exposed or frayed wires should be disposed of and replaced immediately. If you are unable to do so on your own, alert the proper team in your office building to replace them.

Only Smoke in Designated Areas

If your office building has designated smoking areas, make sure you and your coworkers adhere to those marked zones. They are they for many reasons, and one is to avoid a hazard and keep others safe. Dispose of cigarette butts appropriately, and make sure they are OUT before being put into any cigarette disposal devices.

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Keep Appliances Clean

Food left in appliances can catch fire or smoke if left time after time without cleaning. Your office should create a sign-up sheet or some system that ensures the appliances get cleaned regularly including microwaves, toasters, and toaster ovens. Any containers or papers/paper towels should be removed from the microwave, don’t leave any remnants behind that could catch fire or melt.

Restrict Use of Hot Plates and Toaster Ovens

To make a truly fire-safe break room, some offices restrict or ban use of hot plates and toaster ovens. Toaster ovens left unattended can smoke and catch fire when anything drips down to the bottom. These are highly hazardous appliances and should be used with caution and with supervision. These appliances especially need to be kept clean, and plugged in to their own, surge-protected outlets.


Everyone should know this, but still, DON’T DO IT. Watch out for to-go containers that come in boxes, they can sometimes have staples on the side that may be hard to notice, but can spark if put in the microwave.

Don’t Overstuff Trash Cans

A bin of paper can be one of the biggest fire hazards in the office. If a wire were to spark, and the nearby trash can is full of paper and plastic, it can go up in a matter of seconds. If your office building cleans out the trash cans each night, that’s good – it can help keep those from getting overstuffed.

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Keep and Maintain Smoke Detectors in Break Rooms

The break room is a major point of fire hazards in the office and should have smoke detectors closest to the point of hazard. These should be checked regularly, and have back up batteries.

Watch for Suspicious Behavior

As stated above, 10% of all office fires are started by arsonists. Watch for any suspicious behavior in coworkers and especially any coworkers who have been fired or asked to leave under unfortunate circumstances. Collect all security access keys before employees leave for their last day. If anyone is acting strangely or angrily, have security escort them out.

Know the Locations of Extinguishers and Fire Alarms

After all actions are taken to fire-proof the office, tell people how to avoid fire hazards. The first line of defense when a fire happens is to know the emergency routes, how to pull the fire alarms, and where to find the extinguishers. In the event of an emergency, your office should have a laid-out escape plan. Using the extinguisher should only ever be done if it is safe to do so, and if necessary to allow escape. Ensuring everyone gets out of the building safely should be first priority.

First Response Safety Trainers offers fire extinguisher training and first aid that can help in the event of a fire or emergency in your office. Contact us to schedule an on-site and hands-on fire extinguisher training session.







Dan Corrigan
Dan Corrigan

Even after 23 years of conducting training, we continue to build our business one satisfied customer at a time. Interest is generated amongst your employees by creating a fun learning atmosphere

Dan Corrigan
Dan Corrigan

Even after 23 years of conducting training, we continue to build our business one satisfied customer at a time. Interest is generated amongst your employees by creating a fun learning atmosphere

When we say don’t gamble with your employees’ lives, we mean in and out of the workplace. We believe it’s just as important to train your employees on fire safety in the workplace as it is to train them for when they’re home.

There is some overlap between the workplace training we do and what you should do at home, but how can you relay the important stuff like a family evacuation plan, and how to know how to react swiftly and safely?

First off, the importance of training like this for employees and anyone, in general, is that as much you think you would know how to react in the situation, that is not always the case. Part of safety training includes setting those mental expectations about how to react. In an emergency situation, fear, confusion, and stress can overtake even the most basic instincts when it comes to getting yourself and others to safety. Having that mental grounding to know how and when to react can mean all the difference in those situations.

Fire Extinguisher Training

You walk by it every day on your way into the office, but do you know how to use it if the time comes? That fire extinguisher in the hallway is a very important tool when it comes to a fire emergency in your office. Fire extinguisher training is the most hands-on safety training that can be done in your office, and something all of your employees should be comfortable with during an emergency situation.

Whether your workplace is an office setting, or a laboratory with flammable materials, you likely have a mounted or portable fire extinguisher. No matter the risk, it’s just as important for employees to know where these are and how to use them. OSHA has certain requirements when it comes to employers providing these to employees, but the same cannot be said for homeowners. There is no law stating a homeowner must have a fire extinguisher in the home, but there should be at least one fire extinguisher in your home. The kitchen and garage are both areas that have the highest risk of fire in your home.

The fire extinguisher training done through First Response Trainers can easily overlap into training that would make people fully capable of using an extinguisher in the workplace or at home. Learning how to pull the pin, aim the nozzle, squeeze the handle, and sweep the extinguisher over the fire is the P.A.S.S. method and can be easy for your employees to remember no matter where they are. Basically, what your team will learn in a workplace fire extinguisher safety training class will give them the tools to properly identify the classes of fire, what to do during a fire, types of extinguishers, hazards of fighting fires, when NOT to attempt to extinguish a flame, and safety tips that can save their lives and those of their families.

Building a Fire-Safe Home Environment

Send your employees home with tips on prepping a fire-safe home, with fire-proofing tips and tricks, and avoidable hazards. The American Red Cross says that in the case of a fire, you may have as little as two minutes to escape. Here are some safety tips you can share with your employees on fire prevention at home.

  1. Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms or right outside sleeping areas, and in hallways to quickly alert you of a fire.
  2. Test your home fire alarms monthly.
  3. Purchase a fire extinguisher and put it somewhere easily accessible for any family member.
  4. Teach young children what the smoke alarm sounds like, and what to do when they hear it.
  5. Note two ways of escape from every room in your home.
  6. Make sure all young children know how to call 9-1-1, and to do so only in emergencies.
  7. Teach your family STOP, DROP, and ROLL.
  8. Practice escaping your home from every bedroom, and time it, trying to keep it under that two minute mark.
  9. Go over kitchen safety with your family, such as not leaving frying, grilling, or broiling food unattended, and keeping the stove area clear of anything that can catch fire.
  10. Make sure your house number is readable from the street, especially at night, for emergency vehicles.
  11. Have a well laid out escape plan with the family, and run through it a few times a year. Encourage your employees to practice their home evacuation plan the same week you do in the office!

First Steps in an Emergency

Part of safety training includes what to do right away during a fire emergency in your home. This entails staying calm and knowing your plan through and through so it can be executed in that stressful time. Many of the first steps in a workplace emergency coincide with first steps at home. There may be fewer people to evacuate, but the effort is no different.

  1. Know how to safely operate a fire extinguisher – thanks to the First Response class!
  2. Alert others of the fire, and get out immediately.
  3. Use stairs, not the elevator, and leave your belongings – get yourself out.
  4. If a door or door handle feels hot, or smoke blocks your route – use an alternate escape route. Do not open a door that is warm to the touch.
  5. If you must escape through smoke, stay low and close doors behind you.
  6. Once you’re out, do not go back inside, and CALL 9-1-1.

When your workplace is doing fire safety training, make it a priority to relate what your employees are learning to their fire safety at home. The fire extinguisher safety, mental preparation techniques, and evacuation plans all go hand in hand. For employees with families and small children, get the kids involved in the process. Though fires are no joke, children can benefit from a little friendly competition such as a contest for the best-drawn evacuation plan, or which family member got out of their house the fastest. When the time comes where they need to be sharp and ready to respond, a game, acronym, or competition can help them easily remember the steps.

First Response safety courses will help you and your employees be prepared no matter where they are. Contact us to set up a safety training demonstration at your facility.


Dan Corrigan
Dan Corrigan

Even after 23 years of conducting training, we continue to build our business one satisfied customer at a time. Interest is generated amongst your employees by creating a fun learning atmosphere

Dan Corrigan
Dan Corrigan

Even after 23 years of conducting training, we continue to build our business one satisfied customer at a time. Interest is generated amongst your employees by creating a fun learning atmosphere

“Putting out a fire” is a common phrase used by businesspeople every day. But what if the fire is more than a metaphor? Do you know what to do to lessen the likelihood of an office fire breaking out — and how to react if one does?

According to the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), there were more than 98,000 non-residential building fires in 2012, the most recent year for which data is available. Many of them were in small offices and buildings. Estimated property loss from these blazes was $2.6 billion.

A 5-year NFPA analysis found that:

  • Most “business and mercantile” fires occurred when the premises were less populated. One-third of the fires (31 percent) occurred between 7:00 pm and 7:00 am, but created two-thirds (67 percent) of the direct property damage. Nineteen percent occurred on weekends and created 31 percent of the damage. A lot of fires also broke out between noon and 2:00 pm.
  • Twenty-nine percent of commercial blazes were caused by cooking equipment and resulted in 6 percent of the direct property damage; 22 percent began in the kitchen or cooking area, causing just one percent of direct damage.
  • The most damaging fires started in an office. Though only 12 percent of business fires began in this location, they caused the most direct property damage (24 percent).

“Staples’ studies show that a majority of employees don’t feel their employers are prepared for any kind of emergency, including fires,” says Bob Risk, the company’s national sales manager for safety. “The truth is, most are, but they haven’t communicated their fire prevention plan well to employees.”

What do you — and your employees — need to know to lower the odds that your office becomes another statistic? It starts with the four P’s of fire prevention: plan, procure, practice and prevent.

1. Plan

“No matter the size of the office or the number of employees, someone should be designated as the safety officer,” says Ernest Grant, chairman of the board of the NFPA. This person leads the creation and execution of the emergency response plan, which includes:

  • Escape Routes and Meeting Places: Determine and mark the fastest and safest paths to safety. Post maps (with “you are here” marks) in breakrooms and near exits — which should be clearly indicated with signs. Put up reminders that elevators cannot be used during most emergencies. Check emergency lighting in stairwells and make sure they aren’t used as storage areas. Create a procedure for evacuating employees and patrons with special needs, especially if the escape route includes stairs. Select a meeting place far enough away from the building to allow full access to the property by firefighters and other emergency personnel.
  • Emergency Procedures: Make sure employees know that the safety officer is in charge during emergencies. Identify by name and title (whenever possible) the people responsible for contacting the fire department, accounting for employees at the meeting place and assisting emergency personnel with information on equipment or chemicals housed in the building. Keep an up-to-date list of emergency contact information. Outline who notifies the next of kin of injured parties, and designate one person to notify emergency responders of people still in the office or unaccounted for.

2. Procure

There are a few specific items you need for fire safety, such as fire extinguishers and smoke alarms — but most commercial buildings are required to have these items installed to meet local building codes. Check with your fire marshal to learn the requirements for your municipality. Test alarms and check extinguisher charges each month; replace/recharge immediately when indicated.

Additional emergency supplies include a stocked first aid kitbottled water and flashlights. “One company we work with supplies every one of their employees with an escape mask,” Risk notes. “That’s important since most people don’t succumb to the fire or the heat, but to smoke inhalation.”

3. Practice

The safety officer also schedules regular fire prevention trainings, refreshers and drills. “When you have a fire or another emergency, it’s an extremely scary, confusing and rushed situation — and many people don’t operate well that way. So it’s almost like you need to be in muscle memory.”

Hold drills and review procedures frequently, and include emergency response information in new employee orientation. Play the alarm to make sure employees know what it sounds like — it can be a beep, a horn and/or an overhead announcement — and what to do when they hear it. Inspect nuisance alarms (like those false alarms from burning popcorn in the microwave) so employees don’t start ignoring the sound. Include real-time shutting down of critical equipment if required by law or regulation in the event of an emergency. Run contests to see how quickly employees can exit their workspace, reminding them that personal items may need to be left behind. Ask the fire department to conduct periodic trainings for all employees on how to use a fire extinguisher.

4. Prevent

Grant, who’s also outreach coordinator for the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill, offers these tips for lowering the risk of fire in the first place:

  • Follow manufacturers’ recommendations for maximum volt/wattage load for surge protectorspower strips and adapters, and ask your electrician to periodically inspect these items and outlets for potential overload
  • Replace frayed power cords; never run them under rugs or carpeting, use cord protectors instead
  • Unplug appliances (coffeemakers, microwaves) and other equipment not in use at the end of the day and over the weekend
  • Replace appliances that feel warm or hot to touch
  • Ask the fire marshal to inspect chemical and equipment storage areas periodically to ensure proper ventilation and stowage
  • Store hazardous materials according to manufacturers’ instructions and OSHA regulations. Clearly mark these items to help emergency personnel identify and stabilize them
  • Don’t prop fire doors open or block exits with furniture or boxes
  • Don’t allow paper and other trash to accumulate outside of garbage or recycling receptacles, and never store this material near hot equipment, electrical outlets or the smoking areas
  • Don’t permit employees to burn candles, scented oils, etc., even in their personal work areas

Following the four P’s is the best way to protect your business and your employees. “Having an evacuation plan and practicing a fire drill will ensure that employees know what to do in case of a real fire emergency,” says Bill Mace, who oversees education and outreach for the Seattle Fire Department.

Adds Grant: “This prevents confusion and minimizes the possibility of someone sustaining an injury.”

After all those fire drills in school, too many of us take fire prevention and safety for granted. That’s why it’s crucial for business owners, office managers and safety officers to set the right tone, Risk says. “If you don’t take it seriously, your employees won’t either. I always say, ‘It’s a lot easier to prepare for an emergency than to explain why you didn’t.”

Note: Don’t disregard professional fire prevention and emergency preparedness advice, or delay seeking it, because of what you read here. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional consultation by fire marshals, insurance agents and others; it is provided “as is” without any representations or warranties, express or implied. Always consult the fire marshal or your insurer if you have specific questions about any fire safety matter. 

by Margot Carmichael Lester, Staples® Contributing Writer
Dan Corrigan
Dan Corrigan

Even after 23 years of conducting training, we continue to build our business one satisfied customer at a time. Interest is generated amongst your employees by creating a fun learning atmosphere