"Praemonitus, Praemunitis" (Latin proverb) is loosely translated to "Forewarned is forearmed." (Amer. Herit.)
When smoke that can be seen for miles is billowing into the air from your facility, it is not the time to be guessing what is going to happen next. What resources is the fire department going to need to bring the situation under control? Or even worse: Do they have any idea what they may be up against? What happens next is the culmination of what has happened or failed to happen in the previous years, months and days leading up to that moment in time. There are two distinct pathways the event can follow. Either you, as the business owner or occupant, have chosen the course of inaction and been relegated to be part of the problem for the duration of the event, or you have taken a pro-active course of action and chosen to become part of the solution. Your role has already been defined. You and everyone involved must now live with the consequences.
Your local responding fire department should be engaging in an intelligence-gathering process commonly known as pre-incident planning. The scope of this activity can vary widely by department, based on their internal resources and department structure. Recent economic cuts at many departments may affect how often this is done and who within the department is assigned the task. Whoever is doing the pre-incident planning within the fire department should be working with you, the business owner's safety representative, to get specific pertinent information about what is going on inside and outside your business so they can assess what resources are going to be necessary to handle reasonably anticipated emergencies.