This device is called the fire alarm pull station, not the emergency pull station. It is a “universal device” so that whether I am in a Cornell building in New York or an office building in LA, I should recognize this device and know it is used to report fire conditions. I would not recommend using a pull station for anything except fire conditions for many reasons, but here is one. When a fire occurs, fire alarm systems are designed to reduce sources of oxygen to the fire. Depending on your sequence of operations, pull stations can shut down fans in your building that may be beneficial action during a fire but harmful during a spill.
In post-9/11 NYC, new non-fire emergency rules were enacted. These do involve using the fire alarm system, but only by the Fire and Life Safety Director at the command station and only the use of an alert tone (different from the fire alarm sound) and PA system. The use of a pull station is not included.
I think a more appropriate discussion with your committee would be how to best use the fire alarm system to your advantage during a non-fire emergency (e.g. use of purge control, PA system, etc. by the building engineers and safety staff).
The Risk Management Committee at my college is revamping our "Emergency Protocol Guide" for campus. Regarding chemical spills, they have asked me what should be on the chart when there is a chemical spill.
One member suggested that when a large spill occurs, the person should pull the fire alarm. Even for a pretty nasty spill, I am uncomfortable with that recommendation. I am worried that
As a relatively new CHO, it seems to me that for chemical spills, the protocol would be to have a person call the FD if a chemistry professor determines that it is necessary.
In my teaching career, we have only had one nasty spill (boiling nitric acid spilled out of the hood and everyone started choking), which we mitigated by evacuating the lab and waiting until the lab ventilation system cleaned most of it out. Then we went in and mopped it up with bicarbonate.
I am interested in your thoughts, advice or experiences.
Associate Professor of Chemistry
1601 N. Benton Ave.
Helena, MT 59625-0002
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