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Businesses encouraged to fire up safety plans

Published: 18th January 2010

The NSW Government is warning businesses in regional NSW to be fire-ready following a string of major fires across the State last month.

Emergency Services Minister, Steve Whan, called on businesses to follow the NSW Fire Brigade's guidelines and begin training staff in fire prevention and safety.

"Please don't be complacent and put off preparing a fire safety and business continuity plan for your business," Mr Whan said.

 "We have clear guidelines in place that businesses can follow to ensure they know what to do if their business is exposed to an unexpected fire. For more information please go to www.fire.nsw.gov.au .

"It can be as simple as identifying a staff evacuation points, placing emergency service numbers next to a phone, or putting fire hazardous materials in a safe place.

"Well-planned and well-rehearsed strategies will make all the difference between your business surviving or going under.

The NSWFB recommends business owners take the following steps to make their business safe:
  • Have a written and practiced fire escape plan that includes staff lists and designated meeting points.

  • Make sure that you know what information is important for your business continuity. This should include contingency plans to protect and restore all important information (hard copy and IT) like supplier and client lists, business contracts and insurance details.  Consider having an off-site secure location to store important information as part of your contingency plan.

  • Avoid storing or stockpiling flammable materials such as packaging or waste where they could be accessed by the public, including areas immediately outside your business premises.

  • If your business involves flammable or other dangerous goods, ensure their storage and use meets legislative requirements.

  • Make sure all machinery is kept clean and serviced regularly as recommended by manufacturers. If possible, switch machinery off when the business is unattended.

  • Secure all doors and windows when the business is unattended and make sure your business has adequate lighting to deter trespassers.

  • Ensure your business has a serviced and functioning fire alarm system.

  • Ask your local fire station to review your fire safety plan.

"Fires, accidents and natural disasters can be financially and emotionally devastating for NSW business owners, particularly at this busy time of year.

Mr Whan said a fire in Gilgandra last year, where a pile of timber stacked against the wall of a shop was set alight, severely damaging six shops was a prime example of a business not being fire ready. 

Fires have also damaged shopping centres and small businesses in Glen Innes, Harden, Tamworth and Kempsey during November and December.

NSW Fire Brigades (NSWFB) Commissioner Greg Mullins warned businesses against being complacent, particularly taking an 'it won't happen to me' approach.

"Be proactive about developing your fire safety and business continuity plan and you will reduce the risk of accidental fires in the workplace, and make it easier to restore your business if there is a fire," Mr Mullins said.

"It is important that you practise your plan - rather than leaving it in a drawer - so you can be confident it will work, should you ever need to use it."