The building I work in has many different and disconnected departments in it, some public rooms, and has night classes going on till around 10pm most nights. There has also been a lot of work going on in different areas recently with contractors working on lifts, decorating rooms, re-wiring places and generally getting in the way.
I’ve got a bit of a ‘hang-up’ about health and safety and especially fire exits not being blocked, fire doors not being wedged open and the worst of sins – doors being propped open by fire extinguishers. However, I’ve got a new pet-hate to keep an eye on. Contractors sealing off fire detectors by wrapping them with plastic bags and yellow and black hazard tape.
The reason they tape up smoke detectors is so that they don’t set it off with the fumes they are causing, I’m not sure why they taped over the heat-detector – probably because they couldn’t tell the difference.
So, last night one of my colleagues was leaving his office at around 10 and discovered the corridor was filled with smoke. Luckily, he is the chair of our departments health and safety committee so immediately knew what to do – he coughed a lot – hit the nearest alarm, kept his head down and made his way to the nearest stairway (we are on the top floor). On the way down the stairs he could see flames across in another stairwell. When he got out nothing much was happening so he went along to Security Control, which is in the next building, to say Hi.
He said “There’s a fire in the xxxxxx xxxxx building”
Security “Yea, there’s an alarm and someone has gone over”
He said “I know there’s an alarm I set it off, the top floor is full of smoke and I saw flames on level 2”
Apparently things started to move a little faster after that. The fire was set deliberatly by someone emptying an old filing cabinet onto the floor and lighting it. I think this was in a stair well on level 1 or 2 which meant that it didn’t take long to fill with smoke and spill out onto the top floors because of the chimney effect drawing the smoke up. The detector at the top of this stair well has been covered for several weeks.
Total amount of damage – very little, the fire didn’t spread and only caused a bad smell the next day.
Lessons learned – I really hope so.