Getting Started

To surveying and developing your fire prevention and emergency preparedness program.

Step 1:
Understand What and Why a fire prevention and emergency preparedness program is necessary?


A fire prevention and emergency preparedness program can be described as a set of policies, procedures, and/or rules that are practiced to prevent fires and prepare for emergencies in the event of a fire. The protection of life must be paramount to all other activities. The program must be written, communicated, implemented, practiced, and evaluated. Most importantly, responsibility and accountability must be established. As with all business operations, what gets measured gets done.


Good business sense, moral responsibility, and legal obligations are just a few of the reasons for developing and implementing a fire prevention and emergency preparedness program. Most importantly, employees and their family members deserve the safeguards that can be established to protect the employee from fire risks.

Most business owners and managers have long recognized their responsibility to their employees, and the cost benefit to their business through a fire prevention and emergency preparedness program. It makes good business sense to protect employees and minimize the potential business interruption caused by fire.

Step 2:
Establish Management Commitment and Responsibility.

The effectiveness of fire prevention and emergency preparedness program is directly related to the company's commitment and involvement. The company must commit the resources and time to develop and implement the program into the operations. Failure to do so can mean that the lives of employees and the business itself are at risk.

One of the first steps in developing a program is the establishment of a fire prevention and emergency preparedness coordinator. This person will be responsible for coordinating and administering the program throughout the facility. The coordinator should have appropriate training and education if he/she does not have a relevant background and/or experience with fire prevention and emergency preparedness. The coordinator must not assume management's role and responsibility for implementing and managing the program into the operations. Line management has the direct responsibility and accountability for implementing and managing the program. The coordinator will serve as an administrator and advisor to management and must have sufficient authority to accomplish his/her job.

Management commitment must be supported by company policies, procedures, rules, incentives, and disciplinary actions as necessary to ensure compliance. Examples of management commitment include:

  • Establishment of objectives to develop, implement, and/or improve the program.
  • Accountability of management's responsibilities.
  • Encouragement of employee participation and reporting of unsafe conditions/ practices.
  • Resources for material, equipment, and personnel to support the program.
  • Auditing and assessing the program.
  • Setting the example by participating in inspection and drills.

Step 3:
Review Your Existing Programs.

Before you make any changes in, or develop your fire prevention and emergency preparedness program, collect as much information as you can about your current fire prevention and emergency preparedness program and/or practices. This information will be helpful in comparing what exists to the survey that you will complete in this manual. Existing programs may require none or only minor changes rather than development of a new program.

Step 4:
Conduct a Survey.

This step requires a comprehensive survey of the facility to identify existing or potential unsafe conditions and unsafe practices. This can be accomplished using the survey checklists contained within this manual. The survey must be documented so that action plans can be developed for any deficiencies that are noted during the survey. Survey findings should be limited to factual comments. No survey or checklist is able to capture all risks. Thus, it is essential that the surveyor does not exclusively depend on the survey guide to identify all risks. Experience, general knowledge, and all applicable governmental regulations must be considered.

Prior to initiating your survey, you may want to refer to Appendices 3 and 4 for a basic review of fire hazards and a facility survey form.

The survey checklists, found in the next section, are designed to assist in reviewing your existing program and/or development of a program. A survey summary checklist is provided at the end of the checklists to serve as a general assessment of the program, and should only be completed after all checklists have been reviewed. The checklists cover the following areas:

  1. Management Responsibilities
  2. Fire Emergency Preparedness Planning
  3. Exits
  4. Housekeeping & Inspection
  5. Fire Extinguishers
  6. Flammable & Combustible Materials
  7. Electrical Equipment
  8. Compressed Gas & Cylinders
  9. Hot Work Permit
  10. Spraying Operations
  11. Summary of Survey Checklists

Step 5:

After the survey has been completed, the next step is to compare your current program with the information collected on the checklists. This assessment will assist you in identifying existing or potential risks and determining areas that need improvement. It is likely that you have existing procedures and polices that may require a few improvements.

The assessment also serves as a basis for determining what needs to be done and in what priority. Priorities should always start with protecting life before property. Employees must know what actions to take when a fire occurs.

Step 6:
Action Plan.

The assessment should be followed with an action plan to correct any deficiencies or improve your program. The action plan is a written document that identifies objectives, priorities, assignment of the responsibility to direct or monitor the objective, and projected completion dates. Action plans help you to accomplish your objectives and track your progress.

Each objective should be S.M.A.R.T: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bounded; refer to the appendix for an Action Plan Form. Objectives should be broken down into manageable tasks.

(See Appendix 2 for Action and Task Planning Forms.)

Step 7:
Take Action.

Implement your action plan with the high priority objectives and continue working towards completing all of your objectives. Communicate the plan and keep employees informed of your progress. Document your progress and keep track of assignments and completion dates.

Step 8:
Maintenance and Program Oversight.

The fire prevention and emergency preparedness program must be maintained and managed. Schedule audits and inspections as necessary (monthly, quarterly, semi - annually, annually). Review equipment, procedures, plans, and keep employees involved and informed. Management's commitment and participation is critical to maintaining the effectiveness of your program.


The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is an excellent source for fire prevention information. The NFPA provides training material, consulting services, and codes that have been adopted throughout the world. It is highly recommended that the NFPA codes be referenced and used as a minimum standard. (Refer to Appendices 1 and 5 for more information on NFPA reference material.)

Back to Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Getting Started
Survey Checklists

Reference Guide

Appendix I
Sources of Information & Assistance

Appendix II

Appendix III
Review of Basic Fire Hazards

Appendix IV
Facility Survey

Appendix V
Selected NFPA Reference Codes

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