What is a fire watch? It’s exactly what it sounds like. A fire watch is a person or group of people who are assigned to watch for a fire. You’ve probably heard of it in relation to watching for wildfires, but we’re talking about it in relation to businesses and buildings. A fire watch is assigned when other systems that can monitor for fire are inoperable or disconnected for a period of time.
A fire watch for business comes with a context. If there’s hot work going on in your business, then the fire watch pays special attention to the area where this is happening. Similarly, if there are particular fire or egress risks, they can monitor to warn about or correct these risks as well. For example, if a particular machine is faulty and at increased risk of fire, if sawdust or other particulate is becoming dense in the air, or if a stairwell egress is blocked by improperly stored equipment.
We often work with health care facilities on Joint Commission requirements for safety. Their guidelines are precise, and lay some groundwork that offers guidance.
One standard is that if a fire alert system is out of service for more than 4 hours in a 24-hour period, the health care facility must inform the fire department and implement a fire watch for all affected areas. If an automatic sprinkler system is out of service for 10 hours in a 24-hour period, they must do the same. Fire watch activities must be documented for review.
Cameras cannot be used as a replacement for fire watch personnel. They do not match up to the capabilities of a human being and additional senses that cameras do not possess. Many fires can first be recognized by the smell of smoke, or start in containers or machines where a camera can’t maneuver to get a visual angle. This makes personnel assigned to fire watch invaluable for recognizing and stopping small fires before they become large ones.
Obviously, many businesses and buildings are different, and there are similar requirements for a variety of industries. Make sure you know the requirements for your industry and your building. Your local fire department is always willing to help you meet fire code. Fire watch is an invaluable tool for helping you avoid the worst. If you do lose your fire alert system, your automatic sprinkler system, or your monitoring ability for any duration of time, call CES. We can maintenance existing systems, install better ones, and conduct building reports.