Some people assume that working in an office cannot be as dangerous as working in the field, but that is only because they haven’t had any dangerous encounters at work. According to the National Fire Data Center's Topical Fire Report Series, an average of 86,500 nonresidential fires are reported in the United States each year (between 2009 and 2011). Fire safety is important in any structure, but when it comes to hazards with fatal consequences, fires rank high in the office environment. Here we'll take a look at fire safety and what everyone in an office needs to know about it.

What You Don't Know About Fire Safety ...

How many people in your office can name where the fire extinguishers are located and where the rendezvous point is in the event of a fire? Is there a designated fire marshal who will take attendance at the muster point? Or does everyone fend for themselves? Overall, a well-orchestrated and well-rehearsed plan in case of fire can hep prevent chaos. Here's what a fire safety plan should include.

Know Where Fire Extinguishers Are Located
A fire can start anywhere, so it's important for all employees to know where the fire extinguishers are located. That isn't enough though; employees should also know how they work. Most extinguishers run using "PASS:" pull the pin, aim the hose, squeeze the handle and use a sweeping motion to extinguish!

Have a Clearly Stated Evacuation Route
If the alarm goes off, follow procedures and make for the meeting point using the defined evacuation route in a clear and calm manner. It is recommended to use the stairs in office towers in lieu of the elevators, but always refer back to the office evacuation plan.

Choose a Buddy
On your way to the evacuation point, make a note of where your buddy is. Everyone should be responsible for a buddy at work, so everyone can be counted. Was your buddy present at work? Were they in the office? Think about where your buddy was, and if he or she is around to be counted.

Meet at a Muster Point
All employees should be instructed to meet at a muster point, or meeting place, a safe distance from the building. This ensures that everyone will be able to get information on whether it's safe to re-enter the building. At this time, attendance is usually taken, including the possibility of missing persons, so be sure to report in, and get counted.

Practice Evacuation
It is important to engage in practice drills at least once or twice a year to ensure that everyone in the office is aware of the potential threat of a fire and how to react in the event of one. Even if a fire does not occur, a fire drill is great way to keep the office team sharp and prepared for emergencies if they ever do happen.

Practice Prevention
According to statistics from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), most fires occur in the afternoon, and are from cooking and storage issues. Half the battle is in fire prevention, so it is important to be safety aware.

Don't Get Burned

If you are caught in a building during a fire, make sure to stay low and below the smoke line if possible. Close any doors that may become a passageway for fire and smoke. This may prevent the spread of fire to other areas of the office. Get close to an extinguisher if you can, and use a piece of clothing to put over your face so you can filter out some of the smoke. Stay vocal, but try not to panic, and work your way along the floor the safest possible area you can think of.

If you are not sure about the safety plan at your office, or wherever you work, you do not need to be afraid or ashamed to ask. Fire safety is often taken too lightly - until it's too late. Better safe than sorry.