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Shopping Mall Fire Damage Preparedness and Education
By the RestorationSOS Educational Staff
Fires in shopping malls can be devastating to life and property, especially if there is no contingency plan in place to deal with them. Shopping malls can be vast mazes of activity, with one establishment bearing little resemblance to the next. Having an effective fire escape plan may prove problematic unless proper planning is executed beforehand.
The layout of the average mall presents a problem in itself, since exits may not be easy to locate in the event of a fire. A lot of malls also have trash chutes that connect the upper and lower levels. A great many fires begin in these chutes and may transmit smoke a considerable distance, setting off smoke alarms before any fire is actually seen.
Studies have shown that most shopping mall fires begin at night and, as a result, may have the chance to grow and spread to other areas. Fires that begin during the day are typically caught faster and may be extinguished sooner, provided that the store personnel are properly trained on the use of fire extinguishers, alarms, and other necessary equipment.
Fire drills are highly recommended for all mall establishments. Some look on these as an unnecessary interruption of business, but it does allow employees to become familiar with the correct evacuation and extinguishing procedures to be used in the event of a fire, which means a much more effective manner of dealing with the problem should it ever actually arise.
Every shopping mall should have a risk assessment performed; including an onsite survey of all the shops located there, fire safety provisions including extinguishing equipment, means of exit, and occupant loading. It would also take into account the contents of each facility and various activities being carried out in the mall.
Malls should also be equipped with sprinklers or other fire suppression systems designed to be triggered at the first sign of a fire and be able to knock it down before it has the chance to spread.
Reducing clutter within stores and restaurants is another means for controlling mall-related fires. The more clutter there is in a given location, the easier it is for the fire to spread. In addition, clutter may also obstruct exit signs or the exits themselves. More than one fatality occurs every year simply because fire victims were unable to locate the nearest convenient exit.
Exit signs should be clearly marked and illuminated, with backup power to the lights available in the event of an outage. Exit doors should be unlocked and easy to open at any time the mall is open for business.
Finally, every store should have a fire escape plan in place with every employee trained and familiar with their part in the drill. This should be designed with customers in mind, people who may become confused if the alarm goes off and they are in an unfamiliar place.
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