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Firewatch Duties & Responsibilties

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A fire watch is a temporary situation in which a person checks building property for fires in progress or for extreme fire hazard situations. Fire watch personnel do their work when the likelihood of a fire outbreak is high. This includes "hot work" on a building, or construction activities that involve welding, sparks or hot materials. The duties of fire watch personnel vary between jobs and location sites, but basic tasks come with each position. They may work with municipal or volunteer fire departments.

Be Prepared

In all fire watch situations, fire watch personnel must be prepared. They should be familiar with the layout of the area they'll be checking, and where all exits and fire extinguishers are located. Knowing the fastest exit plan from various points of their location is critical. They should have materials with them to facilitate fast evacuations and to notify others in case of a fire. This means reliable communication devices such as a cell phone, walkie-talkie or portable radio. A portable horn can help them to sound an initial alarm as well. Fire watch personnel should carry a flashlight, writing materials, keys to their area fully and a copy of their specific duties.

Record Their Rounds

Fire watch rounds are completed regularly -- some in 15-minute increments, others every hour. Fire watch personnel need to have a record log of each round. On their log, they should have the address of the facility, the time that the patrol began and completed, their name and any communication that occurred between them and the fire department or Department of Public Safety. They should also be wearing a visible form of identification. Also, fire watch personnel should not perform any other tasks or duties except those relating specifically to their area of building property.

During 'Hot Work'

When "hot work" is being performed at the site, fire watch responsibilities include preparation and record-keeping, as well as checking the area before work is performed to ensure all combustible materials are removed from the area. They also make sure that any holes in the area are sealed with fire proof materials. After the hot work is completed, the fire watch should be maintained for at least 30 minutes. All areas to where sparks may have flown need to be checked thoroughly for any new fire hazards.

What Not to Do

Although it varies by location, most fire watch responsibilities are clear that fire watch personnel should not attempt to extinguish the fire unless it is safe for them to do so, or they have been expressly instructed or given permission to do so. According to fire watch duties listed with the Sunnyvale, California Department of Public Safety, fire watch personnel should not undertake tasks that the average citizen could not complete safely.

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