ARDENT
Protection

Fire Watch:
Duties & Responsibilities

This information is provided to clarify the requirements for a fire watch. A fire watch is the action of an on-site person whose sole responsibility is to watch for the occurrence of fire.

Essential Fire Watch Duties: Protecting Your Property

Fire safety is a non-negotiable priority within any facility. During construction, maintenance, or other work activities that introduce fire hazards, a designated fire watch is often mandated by local fire codes to protect property and, more importantly, lives. This guide outlines the core duties of fire watch personnel, emphasizes patrol frequency, explores record-keeping, and discusses the legal necessity of these safeguards.

What Does a Fire Watch Do?

  • Dedicated Focus: A fire watch’s sole responsibility is reporting, and notification of fire or life-safety concerns – they cannot legally be assigned any other tasks (even security tasks).
  • Proactive Patrols: Fire watch personnel conduct meticulously timed patrols (often every 15, 30, or 60 minutes based on local regulations and the specific situation) covering the entire affected area. These patrols aim to identify developing fire hazards, the earliest signs of smoke or ignition, and any life-safety concern.
  • Situational Awareness: In-depth knowledge of the building is paramount. This includes floor plans, location of fire safety equipment (extinguishers, alarms, sprinklers), evacuation routes, and known storage of hazardous materials.
  • Maintaining Safe Conditions: Clear exits, verifying open sprinkler valves (where applicable), eliminating potential ignition sources, and enforcing smoking bans are all responsibilities of the fire watch.
  • Communication is Key: Reliable, direct communication with the Fire Department is essential. A dedicated cell phone is usually the preferred method. Fire watches must also have the means to issue alerts and assist occupants in evacuating, utilizing alarms, PA systems, or other appropriate methods.

Record-Keeping: It's Not Optional, and It Must be Detailed

  • The Fire Watch Log: This meticulously kept log is accessible to the Fire Department at all times. Essential information includes:
    • Building address
    • Date and exact times of each patrol
    • Names of all fire watch personnel
    • All communications with the Fire Department and contractors involved in the work
    • Detailed patrol notes documenting observations during each patrol
    • Any additional requirements specified by your local fire code

Emergency Response

  • Act Immediately: Upon any indication of fire, call 9-1-1 (or your local emergency number) without hesitation, providing the precise building address and room/area. Only after this should evacuation procedures begin.
  • Fire Extinguisher Proficiency and Caution: Understanding fire extinguisher operation and location is crucial, but fire watch personnel should only attempt to extinguish fires that are small, contained, and manageable without self-endangerment. They are not professional firefighters.

Patrol Frequency: Determined by the Authority Having Jurisdiction

  • Not a Choice, But an Order: Fire code and the local Fire Marshal dictate patrol frequency. Every 15, 30, or 60 minutes are the most common intervals, with more hazardous situations demanding shorter spans between patrols.
  • Staffing for Scale: Larger buildings or complex work areas will likely require multiple fire watch personnel to maintain the mandated patrol schedule effectively.

Why This All Matters

Beyond simply describing duties, it’s vital to understand that fire watches are typically a legal obligation, not a discretionary choice. Compliance is required to protect people and property and may affect factors such as insurance coverage.  Building owners, managers, and contractors who disregard fire watch requirements can face severe penalties and liability.

Conclusion

By adhering to fire watch duties, patrol protocols, and meticulous record-keeping, stakeholders demonstrate a commitment to safety and reduce risks.  Remember, fire watches are not about inconvenience; they are about potentially saving lives and preventing devastating losses.

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