Fact Sheet

Safety Devices

Smoke alarms and fire extinguishers are the first lines of defense in the event of a fire in a building.

Smoke Alarms

Smoke alarms can be battery powered, or connected to the electrical circuitry within the building. These alarms are intended to detect a high level of smoke or particles in the air and emit a loud warning signal. If the smoke alarms in the organization’s building are battery powered, it is imperative that the batteries in the alarms are routinely checked to ensure they operate.

Fire Extinguishers

A portable fire extinguisher is very effective when used while the fire is small. The use of a fire extinguisher that matches the class of fire, by a person who is well trained, can save both lives and property. Portable fire extinguishers must be installed in workplaces regardless of other firefighting measures. The successful performance of a fire extinguisher in a fire situation largely depends on its proper selection, inspection, maintenance, and distribution.

Extinguishers should be clearly visible and conspicuously located and readily accessible for immediate use in the event of fire. They should be located along normal paths of travel and exit. Wall recesses and/or flush-mounted cabinets should be used as extinguisher locations whenever possible. If placed out of direct line of sight, use directional arrows to indicate the location of extinguisher and the extinguisher classification.

Portable extinguishers should be maintained in a fully charged and operable condition. They should be kept in their designated locations at all times when not being used. When extinguishers are removed for maintenance or testing, a fully charged and operable replacement unit must be provided.

Classification of Fires and Selection of Extinguishers

Fires are classified into four general categories depending on the type of material or fuel involved. The type of fire determines the type of extinguisher that should be used to extinguish it.

  1. Class A fires involve materials such as wood, paper, and cloth which produce glowing embers or char.
  2. Class B fires involve flammable gases, liquids, and greases, including gasoline and most hydrocarbon liquids which must be vaporized for combustion to occur.
  3. Class C fires involve fires in live electrical equipment or in materials near electrically powered equipment.
  4. Class D fires involve combustible metals, such as magnesium, zirconium, potassium, and sodium.

Extinguishers will be selected according to the potential fire hazard, the construction and occupancy of facilities, hazard to be protected, and other factors pertinent to the situation.

Automated External Defibrillator (AED)

Prompt and accurate electric shock treatment can literally be the difference between life and death for an employee or volunteer who experiences abrupt and sudden loss of heart function due to chaotic, abnormal chaotic heart activity. According to the American Heart Association, a person suffering cardiac arrest literally has minutes to live and responding with an AED within those minutes will mean the difference between life and death for the victim. More than 250,000 sudden cardiac deaths occur each year; many happen in the workplace. The person may or may not have previous diagnosis of heart disease.

The combination of automated external defibrillators and training can save 50,000 of the 250,000 lives lost annually to sudden cardiac death, many of which occur in the workplace. Although AEDs may be leased or purchased, the $3,000 price that includes training and an extra battery is still out of the reach of most nonprofits. However, as with other technological equipment, the price will probably come down.
State and federal legislation, and the American Heart Association, support access and use of AEDs to reduce such deaths. For now, know that rapid intervention is essential to saving a staff member’s life. More and more public entities (airports, police, fire, ambulance) are budgeting to purchase the equipment.

Purpose: Quickly and effectively restore heartbeat and blood flow
Who: Non-medical and minimally trained personnel
Why: CPR alone can’t fully restore blood flow and doesn’t restore heart rhythm.
Where: Onsite (office, warehouse, retail operation, camp, daycare facility, etc.)
How: Small portable automated external defibrillator units
When: Immediately following sudden cardiac arrest



Smoke Alarms

The smoke alarms should be routinely tested to ensure that they are working and loud enough to be heard throughout the building. Everyone in the building should be able to hear the alarm and should heed the signal and evacuate the building.

Mounting and Distribution of Extinguishers

Extinguishers will be installed on hangers, brackets, in cabinets, or on shelves. Extinguishers having a gross weight not exceeding 40 pounds will be installed so that the top of the extinguisher is not more than 3-1/2 feet above the floor.

Extinguishers mounted in cabinets or wall recesses or set on shelves will be placed so that the extinguisher operating instructions face outward. The location of such extinguishers will be made conspicuous by marking the cabinet or wall recess in a contrasting color which will distinguish it from the normal decor.


If the entity hasn’t purchased AEDs, consider joining the public entities (airports, police, fire, ambulance) that are budgeting to purchase the equipment.


American Heart Association

e-laws OSHA Fire Safety Advisor The OSHA Fire Safety Advisor addresses employer responsibilities under the OSHA general industry standards (29CFR1910) which cover the majority of workplace types. Employers of workers engaged in construction, agriculture, and marine industries are covered by other OSHA regulations and their obligations are not addressed by this Advisor.

Fire Extinguishers,” Health & Safety Manuals, Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office of Health and Safety

OSHA Emergency Preparedness and Response Fact Sheet

Safety Devices Checklist

State Laws on Heart Attacks & Defibrillators, National Conference of State Legislatures

Sudden Cardiac Death, American Heart Association