Site Security and Fire Watch: 4 Steps to Safer Construction Sites

Raymond O’Brocki

December 2, 2019

Despite the best technology and employee training, your construction site may still be vulnerable to fire hazard without proper security and fire watch.

Site security and fire watch is intended to ensure that your project is under continual surveillance and that qualified staff are able to identify and control potential fire hazards. In the event of a fire, security and fire watch personnel should know how to effectively raise fire alarms and notify the fire department.

The 2021 International Fire Code (IFC) will make a fire watch mandatory for buildings more than 40 feet in height or with an aggregate area exceeding 50,000 square feet.

To help reduce the risk of fire and provide your site with proper security, fire watch personnel should take the following steps:

  1. Know your site property
    • Be familiar with the buildings and structures on site and have an approved written plan for patrolling the property.
    • Be informed of all hot work conducted on-site. Special patrolling emphasis should be placed on these locations.
    • Know where all fire extinguishers are located on-site and how to operate them.
  2. Record your findings and on-site happenings
    • Keep a log of all fire watch related activities. This includes but is not limited to the time you begin and start each round of patrol, the name of the fire watch person on duty, and detailed notes regarding activities observed such as hot work operations.
  3. Be alert and focused
    • Do not perform any other site duties while on fire watch.
    • Do not be impaired or distracted by other site happenings.
    • Be prepared to address or respond to potential hazards at any time while on fire watch.
  4. Properly communicate with first responders in the event of a fire
    • Have access to at least one approved means of communication with emergency responders.
    • Know the exact address of the property and how to report a fire or other emergency by calling 911.
    • Seek out and learn proper procedure for interfacing with responding fire companies and law enforcement.

In taking these necessary steps, your fire watch personnel can help ensure that your construction site is properly secured.

Learn more about site security and safety here.Raymond O’Brocki, is the manager of fire service relations for the American Wood Council. Before that he was the chief building official for the City of Rockville, MD. He retired as the assistant fire chief the Baltimore City Fire Department in 2013. He was appointed fire marshal for Baltimore City in 2008. During his tenure as fire marshal, Baltimore City recorded the three lowest annual fire fatality totals in its history. O’Brocki has served on the Maryland State Child Care Advisory Council, Maryland State Fire Code Update Committee, State Fire Marshals Legislative Working Group in Annapolis and the steering committee for the Mid-Atlantic Life Safety Conference. He has served on the NFPA Urban Fire Safety Task Force and has presented at the National Fire Academy. Ray is currently a sitting member of the NFPA 1 technical committee. He is a graduate of the University of Baltimore School of law and a licensed attorney.