Fire drills are a vital part when it comes to your Fire Safety Plans and it’s important to know how to conduct them accordingly. Along with the rest of your fire safety equipment, such as fire signs, fire extinguishers and alarms, they will ensure that you will be ready when a fire incident ensues. Whether you work in an office, retail store, school or warehouse, you need to be prepared to conduct all of your staff during an emergency and ensure that they are fully protected.
Although most of the time fire drills produce more chaos than anything else, your staff needs to be explained clearly how to handle these situations. You need to be able to go through the whole procedure with them and ensure that everyone understands that in case of an emergency, the right measures will be taken.
When it comes to conducting a fire drill, there are a couple of steps that you might want to take into account in order to ensure that the exercise will go as planned. We’ve put together some tips that will come in handy when your next fire drill takes place.
What is a Fire Drill?
A fire drill can be explained as being a simulated emergency procedure that is aimed at replicating a scenario of a real fire emergency and how people should behave during one. It involves the evacuation of all the people within the building in an efficient way.
It aims to familiarise your employees with all the procedures that need to be taken and followed during a fire emergency in order for them to evacuate the building as soon as possible.
Along with your employees being properly instructed, a fire drill is intended to check that the fire warden or the fire supervisor knows exactly what to do.
Who is responsible for a fire drill?
As stated by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) the person who is in charge of performing a fire drill is the one that oversees all the fire safety tasks. That is usually the owner or manager of the premises on both commercial and non-domestic premises. They are required by law to ensure that all fire safety regulations are fulfilled.
This ‘Responsible Person” as stated by law, has a number of responsibilities such as planning ahead for an emergency as well as informing all the staff, training and instructing them. Whenever new staff joins, this person is required to train them as well and inform them of the existing fire evacuation procedures.
Fire drills are of course part of the Fire Security requirements and they should be carried out effectively at regular times. The person should ensure that all the results after a fire drill are recorded and kept in a record.
Let Your Staff Know
When you are planning a fire drill, ensure that your staff will know beforehand in order to avoid all the chaos that might come with it.
You would want to avoid telling them the exact date as this would defy the purpose of a fire drill, but it would be recommended to remind them a fire drill will take place anywhere in the following 2 months.
If a fire drill is carried out in a large building, make sure you designate some observers to identify if the rest of the people are following the guidelines.
They should note the behaviour, the action everyone takes and they should make a note of anything that doesn’t go as planned.
Ensure everything is in order
Has your building had anything changed lately? You need to check if the evacuation routes are the same if a risk assessment has found anything you might need to review again, your new employees are aware of the evacuation practices and so on.
Keeping track of these changes ensures that you and your staff will be fully ready and protected during any emergencies.
The type of evacuation
A risk assessment reveals the type of evacuation plan that you need. You will then know what type of fire drill you will have to perform. Usually, depending on the premises you occupy, there are several types of evacuation methods:
- A total building evacuation also named single-stage
- Evacuation from the dangerous area to a place where people can follow an escape route;
- Staff alarm which is an evacuation directed by staff (usually in shops or cinemas)
- Warning/ alert signal evacuate. This type will allow for some time to investigate the potential source of fire followed by an evacuation signal if appropriate.
An employer also needs to consider the PEEPs which is short for Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans.
They are designed to offer the correct evacuation procedures for people who require extra help, such as people in wheelchairs and people with sight impairments.
The fire wardens need to be properly trained when it comes to handling these evacuations. As a person in charge of the building or as an employer, it is within your duty to correctly have these measures in place in order to allow for safe evacuation of everyone in your building.
How many fire drills should be held annually?
According to the UK government guidelines, you should hold at least one fire drill per year. Make sure you record the results, as you will need to save those in your fire safety and evacuation plan. In addition to that, monthly or even weekly fire alarm tests are recommended to ensure that the technical components of your fire alarm system are working as expected.
An evacuation drill can be seen as a test to see how you and your staff would perform in a real situation.
Make sure that you have the right methods in place, everyone knows how to act, and observe the outcome and make notes about it. Was your strategy right? Is your emergency equipment (such as the doors, the lighting, the signs) clear enough to allow for an easy evacuation?
By the time everything has been successfully completed, your evacuation drill report should contain information regarding the time each area has been cleared and if anyone encountered an issue along with other observations that are relevant.
There might be room for improvement and you need to discuss this with your fire wardens or security staff. Once everyone has agreed on a course of action, you need to implement it and community it with your staff.