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Should Security Guards Try to Put Out a Fire?

Calling the emergency response team first is far better than trying to extinguish a fire by oneself. Also, in a dangerous situation, using the team approach is better than going in alone.

Should Security Guards Try to Put Out a Fire?


Greetings Douglas,

Our facility has a packaging store room that contains cardboard and plastic packaging. The room has smoke detectors with an alarm system. The area is manned by security guards.

My question is, in the event the alarm system activation after hours, should the guards open the room (this is a fairly large room with plenty of packaging) to attempt to locate and extinguish the fire before calling in emergency response personnel?

All our staff members are trained on the use of fire alarm equipment.

Thank you, G H

There are several considerations to the question.
  1. After hours, no one is in the room - there is no need to evacuate anyone
  2. Burning plastic emits highly toxic smoke - just a few breaths of smoke can kill
  3. The room is fairly large, presumably one can go far enough in that smoke can get between the security guard and the exit
  4. You mention firefighting equipment, but you don't mention personal protective equipment, including breathing apparatus
  5. A life is far more important than stored cardboard and plastic
  6. Paying for a false alarm is far less costly than filling out the paperwork explaining an injury

In the past, I've talked to a fire marshal about this. He said he'd suspend any of his firefighters that went into a burning building without first putting on the personal protective equipment, including safe breathing apparatus. He did not want any of his firefighters to be added to the injury list.

My personal suggestion to the security guards (you may wish to put this in their emergency response procedure book) is that if the alarms sound off:
  1. Call the emergency response personnel right away. That starts the fire fighting process.
  2. Unlock the door to the room, but do not enter for any reason.
  3. Stand back and let the emergency response personnel do their job.

Douglas Krantz
Mr. Krantz

Thank you for this information. We do have Self Contained Breathing Apparatus which first responders are trained on, and the use of these are part of our emergency mock drills. The considerations you have mentioned have now all been taken into account.

Thank you, G H

Douglas Krantz -- Fire Alarm Engineering Technician, Electronic Designer, Electronic Technician, Writer

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