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Insight - Security Officers' role in fire loss prevention

Insight - Security Officers' role in fire loss prevention
31-07-23 / Sisanda Ndlovu

Insight - Security Officers' role in fire loss prevention

Johannesburg - While fire prevention may not be the primary responsibility of a security officer, they fulfil a critical role at any site operation when it comes to fire prevention, early detection and emergency response.

“A security officer’s main role is to protect the client's assets and employees from loss, damage or injury. In fulfilling these duties, it means that the site has an extra pair of ears and eyes that are constantly patrolling and are more likely to notice when something goes wrong or is out of place,” says Andy Mizen, a Senior Risk Consultant at Aon South Africa.

“It’s important to have suitably trained individuals on site whom are able to question and recognise the intended  status quo and are able to recognise potential risks that could threaten the employer’s assets, including fire loss preventions exposures. Cultivating awareness of fire loss prevention starts by incorporating the message into formal training opportunities or during weekly tool talks with live videos of past events, amongst other initiatives, through to adopting a recognition and reward program that serves to motivate security personnel in their daily duties to report any incidents speedily and to respond apropriately,” says Mizen.

There are numerous ways that security teams can play a role in fire loss prevention, including:  

  1. Surveillance and Monitoring: Security officers are trained to keep a watchful eye on the premises they are assigned to protect. While they actively patrol the area and monitor surveillance systems, it provides an opportunity to identify potential fire hazards such as faulty wiring, flammable materials or improper storage practices. Ensure that they are informed of any activities to look out for on their patrolling route, such as hot works that are taking place on site, deliveries where items are stacked and the safety thereof and more frequently patrolling areas where fire hazards are higher or special conditions occur.  Providing training and constant reinforcing on what constitutes a potential fire hazard will go a long way in incorporating the on-site security personnel in fire prevention efforts.
  2. Training: Regular training on how to use fire equipment such as extinguishers and fire hoses should be provided and certified by the business, making it a requirement for any personnel on site. Also knowing what to do in the event of an emergency serves as a solid baseline to successfully navigate any incident such as arson, strikes, riots and the like, which requires a thorough understanding of shutdown procedures, evacuation procedures, communication channels that should be followed, access control and how to secure the scene of an incident.
  3. Equipment: Security officers must be properly equipped to raise the alarm with access to radios, cell phones, landlines and monitoring equipment such as CCTV networks. Any and all communication channels must be managed efficiently and effectively to prevent any delays in response in the event of a fire or other emergency.
  4. Reporting: Security personnel must be trained in writing concise accurate reports and/or protocols for reporting any hazards across communication channels. The following conditions must be reported, immediately:
    • Unauthorised impairments to fire protection systems.
    • Unauthorised hot work operations.
    • Potential damage to equipment caused by freezing or other environmental conditions.
    • Process or service equipment that appears to be out of order or malfunctioning.
    • Other site-specific matters that would affect the operation or security of the site.
  1. Access Control: Security guards manage access points, ensuring that only authorised personnel enter the premises. This control prevents individuals without proper training or authorisation from handling hazardous materials or engaging in activities that may increase the risk of a fire. By restricting access to sensitive areas and enforcing safety protocols, security guards contribute to fire prevention.
  2. Fire Safety Inspections: Involving security officers in conducting routine fire safety inspections, checking fire extinguishers, smoke detectors and other fire safety equipment is a good way of reinforcing awareness and adherance to safety protocols. It also serves as a means to comply with Occupational Health and Safety requirements such as maintaining clear exit paths and not blocking fire exits.
  3. Contracts: It is absolutely essential to ensure formal contratcs are in place with outsourced security providers that are aligned to clearly defined milestones as well as monthly performance reviews according to contractual agreements and that all legal documents, registrations, (COID, Liability, Professional Indemnity etc ) are current and in place.

“While security officers play a significant role in fire loss prevention, it is also important to note that they should work in conjunction with trained fire safety professionals and local fire departments to ensure the highest level of safety and response to fire emergencies. The safety of all personnel on site is important, including the safety of security personnel. Providing security teams with ongoing training and awareness of possible fire hazards and the appropriate response to these events, is the first safeguard in the prevention and control of any fire-related event,” Mizen concludes.

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