5 Can’t-Miss Items to Document in a Fire Preplan

Posted on March 9, 2021
Tags: Fire

You can’t beat situational awareness when responding to a fire incident, and a key way to increase your knowledge of the involved property is by utilizing a fire preplan. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1620 defines a preplan as a document containing general and detailed property data, used by responding personnel to better protect occupants, responding personnel, property, and the environment.

Digital fire incident preplans can be easily shared in real-time as first responders travel to and prepare their response to an emergency situation. From where to park to hidden hazards, preplans give fire fighters a distinct advantage in forming their most effective response. It is imperative, however, that fire preplans are accurate and updated to truly be helpful.

Fire departments often work with property managers and business owners to create and maintain fire preplans. This can occur during regular inspections, new construction projects, or with changes in ownership. When developing a property fire preplan, here are five key data points you’ll want to be sure to include.

1. Contact Information

In addition to basic property information like company name, address, and driving directions, you should also include contact information for people who know the location of keys, hazards, occupants, and other important items. If possible, capture multiple contacts for the property, including key holders, overnight managers, and maintenance personnel.

You’ll want to be sure to document contact information such as work phones and email addresses, but also after-hours numbers or private lines such as cell phones. Today’s properties tend to experience more frequent changes in ownership and employment, so be sure to check these contacts regularly to ensure they are still accurate.

2. Special Evacuation Needs

When forming your response plan for an emergency, it’s important to understand any special life-safety needs, and these should be documented within the preplan. For example, there may be certain buildings that have occupants requiring evacuation assistance, such as mental health facilities, hospitals, or nursing homes. Pay particular attention to the needs of those residents and plan for special procedures such as mobile lifts, assistance transporting restrained persons, or help for people who have limited mobility.

Be sure to include the typical number of occupants (and if that changes based on the time of day). Work with the building owners or property managers to define safe meet-up spots for occupants to gather after an evacuation for head counts. Be sure to document these locations in your preplan and ensure they’re shared with the employees and owners as well.

3. Locations of Water Sources & Hazardous Materials

Having access to water sources is critical when answering a fire call. Your preplan should capture and document all available water sources by type and (if available) flow. Take photographs of locations and attach to the preplan for easy reference.

Additionally, hazardous materials can cause big trouble in a fire or natural disaster. You’ll want to know exactly where those items are stored, how they are stored, and their NFPA 704 codes to understand what potential issues they could create. Tip: Look for preplan software that has CAMEO integration so you can easily look up and reference hazardous materials while performing inspections or creating preplans.

4. Fire Protection Information

When creating or updating a fire preplan, be sure to include information about fire alerting and suppression systems. Today’s fire technology is increasingly advanced, so it is helpful for responding departments to know if the property contains sprinkler systems, dry pipe systems, dry chemical fire suppression systems, gaseous fire suppression systems, and more.

It’s also helpful to note the location of alarm control panels and indicator valves, as well as record which parts of the property are not protected by fire suppression systems. Take photos of locations and document any potentially broken systems during inspections.

5. Construction & Building Information

Today’s properties are more advanced and customized than the buildings of the past. Subsequently, the more information you can access about everything from layout to building materials may affect your response plan. The more details included in the preplan, the safer and more effective the response.

A preplan should include number of stories, building length and width, site plan, and floor plans. You should also document utility shutoff, emergency exits, evacuation plans or routes, windows, stairwells, elevator shafts, roof construction, and any indication of structural weakness. Consider including access barriers such as narrow bridges, steep roads, RR crossings, as well as access codes for gates and doors, Knox Box location, and even aerial photos of the site if available.

Preplans Going Digital

In the past, fire departments compiled large, hefty binders containing preplan documents. Of course, these could only be used by one or two people at a time, and had to be manually transported to the site. Updates meant paper printouts and sorting, with hopes of not losing important information or missing outdated data.

Digital preplans, on the other hand, make updating and sharing fire preplans exponentially more efficient. Plans can be stored on the Cloud and shared with first responders via tablets and smart devices. Fire inspection software tools like ESO Properties and Inspections make the process even easier and more consistent by offering the ability to easily attach photos, videos, and electronic signatures. Built-in CAMEO integration and alignment with NFPA 1620 standards help make inspections more complete, while configurable forms and checklists help ensure consistent terminology and included data points.

There’s no doubt that accurate, easily accessible fire preplans make fire response more efficient, helping fire departments save more lives and more property. By using the data your fire department is already collecting through inspections, you can create better-informed response plans and shift the odds in your team’s favor.

Read the white paper, Five Pre-plans Strategies to Improve Provider Safety, or download the product one-page overview on ESO Properties and Inspections.