Event fire hazards! Where prevention is better than reaction


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Fire-safety for events

Fires are accidents, whose causes are the most diverse and which require intervention methods and techniques adapted to the conditions and needs of each incident.

Fires can spread more or less rapidly depending on their causes, the nature of the material and goods alight, the fire prevention installations (automatic sprinklers), the ways the population is informed and the initiative it shows, as well as the speed and efficiency of the intervening services and of their fire-fighting equipment.

Recently a massive fire broke out at #MakeInIndia event on 15th Feb. 2016 in the evening during a cultural programme at in Mumbai. The fire broke out below the stage during the programme.

There are reports that firecrackers were stored beneath the stage.The sad news is that
there was no scientific audit of the crackers while conducting the fire audit of the stage
and venue. The other worrying factor is that so much combustible, rather than flame
retardant, material was used for the stage and the sets. Cylinders for the pyrotechnic
display were kept near the dias and there was lack of coordination between the decorators and pyrotechnic experts. And strangely, there is no rule that empowers the government to monitor and regulate pyrotechnics.

There’s seems to be a clear gap of communication between Police department and Fire brigade as Police officials were reportedly saying that there were no instructions from Fire Dept.

In the end; by God’s grace that there has been no loss of life. The disaster management plan put in place ensured the safe passage of the people attending the event. All the standard operating procedures (SOPs) were followed. There is no injury.

It was unfortunate, but everybody got out safe including VVIPs, 20,000 to 25,000 people
were there. Luckily, the fire exits were clearly defined. The blaze was brought under
control in quick time by 14 fire engines and 10 water tankers with swift evacuation of
thousands of people.

This incident showed that one needs to be on their toes while taking into account the safety measurements during such mega events.

Here’s All You Need To Know About Handling Fire Related Accidents At Mega Events:

MANAGING FIRE SAFETY

Managing Fire-Safety

Good management of fire safety is essential to ensure that fires are unlikely to
occur; that if they do occur they are likely to be controlled quickly, effectively and
safely or that if a fire does occur and grow, to ensure that everyone in your
premises are able to escape to a place of total safety easily and quickly.

Planning

It is of fundamental importance to appreciate that planning for effective fire safety
for an event, site or venue should start at the same time as the planning
for all other aspects of the proposed event.

WHAT IS A FIRE RISK AUDIT?

A fire risk audit is an organised and methodical look at your premises and/or
event, the activities carried on there and the likelihood that a fire could start and
cause harm to those in and around the premises.

HOW DO YOU CARRY OUT A FIRE RISK AUDIT?

For a fire to start, three things are needed:
• a source of ignition;
• fuel; and
• oxygen.

If any one of these is missing, a fire cannot start. Taking measures to avoid
the three coming together will, therefore, reduce the chances of a fire occurring.

Identify sources of ignition

identify the source of ignition

You can identify the potential ignition sources at your event or venue by looking for
possible sources of heat, which could get hot enough to ignite material found in
your premises. These sources could include:
• cooking and catering appliances and equipment, including barbecues;
• smokers materials, e.g. cigarettes, matches and lighters;
• electrical, gas or oil-fired heaters (fixed or portable);
• faulty or misused electrical equipment;
• light fittings and lighting equipment, e.g. halogen lamps or display lighting;
• hot surfaces and obstruction of equipment ventilation, e.g. generators;
• naked flames, e.g. candles or gas or liquid-fuelled open-flame equipment;
• flares, fireworks and pyrotechnics;
• natural phenomena (e.g. lightning);

Identify sources of fuel

 Anything that burns is fuel for a fire. You need to look for the things that will burn
reasonably easily and are in enough quantity to provide fuel for a fire or cause it to
spread to another fuel source. Some of the most common ‘fuels’ found at open air
events or venues are:

• flammable liquids and solvents, e.g. cleaning products.disposable cigarette lighters, fuel for generators (whether petrol or diesel), paints, varnishes, thinners and adhesives;
• flammable gases e.g. liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) propane and acetylene;
• displays and stands,
• tents and marquees;
• plastics and rubber, e.g. polyurethane foam-filled furniture and polystyrene-based
display materials;
• upholstered seating and cushions, textiles and soft furnishings, such as hanging
curtains and clothing displays, costumes, drapes and hangings, scenery and
banners;
• packaging materials, litter and waste products, particularly finely divided items
e.g. stationery, advertising material, decorations, shredded paper and wood
shavings, timber off cuts, and dust;
• fireworks and pyrotechnics;
• temporary floor coverings;
• vehicles in the venue or at car parks.

Identify sources of oxygen

The main source of oxygen for a fire is in the air around us. Events and venues open to the air are more likely to be affected by high winds that may increase the fire growth rate and fire spread. Sources of oxygen can sometimes be found in materials used or stored on the site such as:
• Some chemicals (oxidising materials)
which can provide a fire with additional
oxygen and so help it burn.
• Oxygen supplies from cylinder
storage.
• Fireworks which contain oxidising materials and need
to be treated with great care.

Evaluate the risk of a fire occurring

In general, fires start in one of three ways:
• accidentally, such as when smoking materials are not properly extinguished or
when display lights are knocked over;
• by act or omission, such as when electrical equipment is not properly maintained
or disposable barbecues are placed into waste bins containing combustibles..
• deliberately, such as an arson attack involving setting fire to rubbish bins placed
too close to temporary structures such as tents or marquees.

Look critically at your event or venue and try to identify any ‘accidents waiting to
happen’ and any acts or omissions which might allow a fire to start.

Remove or reduce sources of ignition

There are various ways that you can reduce the risk caused by potential sources
of ignition, for example:
• ensure that flares and fireworks are not brought into the event or venue by
members of the public;
• ensure that all pyrotechnics, fireworks, flares and other hazardous equipment
are installed, used, maintained, protected and stored in accordance with the
manufacturer’s instructions;
• wherever possible replace a potential ignition source by a safer alternative;
• replace naked flame and radiant heaters with fixed convector heaters. Restrict
the movement of and guard portable heating appliances;
• restrict/control the use of naked flames e.g. campfires, barbecues, candles;
• operate a safe smoking policy;
• ensure electrical, mechanical and gas equipment is installed, used, maintained,
and protected in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions;
• ensure cooking and catering equipment is installed, used, maintained, and
protected in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions;
• control areas where vehicles are parked;
• take precautions to avoid arson.

Remove or reduce sources of fuel

There are various ways that you can remove or reduce the risks caused by
materials and substances, which burn, for example:
• ensure that display materials (including artificial and dried foliage), props, scenery
and stands, are fire retardant, or have been treated to give some fire retardancy;
• reduce stocks of flammable materials, liquids and gases on display in public
areas to a minimum. Keep remaining stock in dedicated storerooms or storage
areas where the public are not allowed to go, and keep the minimum amount
required for the operation of the business;
• ensure that all upholstered furniture, curtains, drapes, tents and marquees, are
fire retardant, or have been treated to give some fire retardancy;
• ensure safe practice with respect to refuelling generators. Use of petrol generators
should be discouraged, wherever possible, in favour of diesel generators;
• develop a formal system for the control of combustible waste by ensuring that
waste materials and rubbish are not allowed to build up and are carefully stored
until properly disposed of, particularly at the end of the day;
• ensure adjacent marquees, temporary structures and other fire hazards are sited
an adequate distance apart;
• ensure scenery and props not in current use on an open stage are stored away
in an approved scenery or prop store.

Remove or reduce sources of oxygen

You can reduce the potential source of oxygen supplied to a fire by:
• not storing oxidising materials near any heat source or flammable materials;
• controlling the use and storage of oxygen cylinders, ensuring that they are
not leaking;
• controlling the use and storage of pyrotechnics and fireworks.

Fire detection and warning systems

The means of giving a warning of fire should be suitable for the particular event or
venue, taking account of its size, layout, number of people likely to be present and
the nature of the event.

At complex events/venues, particularly those accommodating people in different
areas, (e.g. an event), it is likely that a more sophisticated form of warning and
evacuation is required.

It is important to consider the means of communication between staff and
volunteers implementing the emergency plan.

Fire-fighting equipment and facilities

Fire-fighting equipment can reduce the risk of a small fire, e.g. a fire in a wastepaper
bin, developing into a large one. The safe use of an appropriate fire
extinguisher to control a fire in its early stages can also significantly reduce the
risk to other people in the event or venue by allowing people to assist others
who are at risk.

The provision of fire-fighting equipment for outdoor events will vary according to
the local conditions and what is brought on to the site.

Arrangements may need to be made to protect fire-fighting equipment located
outdoors from the effects of frost, vandalism, and theft.

At some events an independent specialist fire team may be employed. Where this
is the case the use of an all terrain vehicle may be necessary to enable them to
reach all areas. A protocol should be agreed between the event organisers, fire and rescue service and fire team to define responsibilities, actions and reporting procedures.

Facilities for fire fighting also include the access routes for fire and rescue service
and other emergency service vehicles. At all outdoor venues you must ensure that
you have provided adequate and appropriate vehicle access to all parts of the
venue. You should also consider how these routes would be affected by the people
at your site or event.

Escape Routes

Once a fire has started, been detected and a warning given, everyone at your
venue or event should be able to escape to a place of total safety unaided and
without the help of the fire and rescue service. However, some people with
disabilities & others with special needs may need assistance from other people.

Escape routes should be designed to ensure, as far as possible, that any person
confronted by fire, is able to turn away from it and escape to a place of reasonable
safety, where, they will be able to go directly to a place of total safety.

Generally simple enclosures found at open air events & venues will require fairly simple
measures to protect escape routes.

Escape time

In the event of fire it is important to evacuate people as quickly as possible from
the locality of the fire. The time available to do this will depend on a number of
factors, including:
• the location of the fire (indoor/outdoor);
• how quickly the fire is detected and the alarm raised;
• the number of people present;
• the type of people present;
• the number and location & width of exits/gateways;
• the presence of features that restrict the flow of people;
• the speed of fire growth;
• the size of your site, event or venue.

Emergency evacuation of persons with mobility impairment

The means of escape you provide must be suitable for the evacuation of everyone
likely to be at your event or venue. People with a disability are often not able to
leave the site or venue quickly. This may be the result of mobility, hearing, vision or
other impairment. Similarly, those who may have some other reason for not being
able to leave the site quickly, e.g. people in a state of undress (stage performers),
elderly customers, or parents with children should be considered separately. This
may require additional planning and allocation of staff roles – with appropriate training.

Use of these facilities will need to be linked to effective management arrangements
as part of your emergency plan. The plan should not rely on fire and rescue service
involvement for it to be effective.

Signs and notices

Signs must be used, where necessary, to help people identify escape routes/exits,
find fire-fighting equipment and emergency fire telephones.

Notices must be used, where necessary, to provide the following:
• Instructions on how to use any fire safety equipment
• The actions to be taken in the event of fire
• To help the fire and rescue service (e.g. to show the location of fire.)

Where your site or venue is used during periods of darkness all signs
and notices should be illuminated by a suitable lighting installation.

All signs and notices should be positioned so that they can be easily seen
and understood.

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