Fire safety is rarely on the forefront of our minds.  In our everyday lives, fire tragedies are things that happen to other people on the evening news. The truth is that 2,640 people died and 15,635 were injured in 484,500 fires in 2011, in the US alone. Fires are not a rarity; in the US there was a structure fire reported every minute in 2011. So, what can you do to help yourself, people you care about, employees, customers, and first responders? It’s simple. Clearly identify your emergency exits and ensure that they are accessible.
Blocked emergency exits are a major problem all around the world; infamous events like Coconut Grove fire, the Station Night club, and now the Kiss Nightclub fire in Brazil. Others are well known because so many people were killed when their emergency exits were blocked. But others exist, just as tragic but less well known because there were fewer fatalities. Tragedies like this one can be prevented. Rick Ornberg, author and former firefighter, recently wrote an article on his blog about the importance of keeping emergency exits clear. “National fire codes are full of life-safety related requirements that were written following one of several major tragedies in the workplace, in schools and in places of public assembly. Many of those were written after incidents where piles of burned corpses were found stacked against a locked or blocked exit.” Ornberg wrote, in response to seeing several emergency exits blocked in local restaurants and businesses. One needs only to search blocked exits to see the truth in Ornber’s words; Wikipedia has an entire section dedicated to tragedies caused by blocked exits.
If you see an exit being blocked at your workplace or where you eat and shop, will you do yourself and those around the service of mentioning it to someone in charge? If your place of work routinely has an exit blocked installing the appropriate sign is the least you can do to assist in keeping your facility and its occupants safe.