Our Guide to Effective Workplace Fire Drills
Part 2: Who is responsible for a fire drill and how often should be they undertaken?
Part 3: How do you conduct a fire drill effectively?
Whether you work in an office, retail outlet, school or factory, fire drills are a vital part of your workplace fire safety. As important as fire alarms, fire extinguishers and fire safety signs, they are an indirect, but equally significant, form of fire protection and aim to protect everyone who works within your commercial building from the devastating consequences of fire.
However, a fire drill can often be viewed as an inconvenience; not only do they disrupt the day and distract from valuable working time, they can also be perceived as a nuisance to staff and are often greeted with sighs and noncommittal shuffles towards the exit. Therefore, the experts at Scutum Group have compiled a quick and simple guide as to why fire drills are so important and how you can carry them out effectively within your workplace…
What is a fire drill and why are they necessary?
A fire drill is a simulated emergency procedure which aims to emulate the processes which would be undertaken in the event of a fire or other similar emergency. It involves creating a situation which replicates what would happen if a real fire were to occur, usually with the inclusion of fire alarms, and requires your employees, and anyone else who may be within your property at the time, to evacuate.
Intended to make an evacuation in the event of a fire as simple, efficient and effective as possible, it involves running your employees through your evacuation procedures, ensuring they are familiar with the plan and are able to get out quickly and safely. It is also intended to make sure your relevant fire warden or fire safety supervisor knows exactly what they are doing and can act as incredibly beneficial practice if their expertise is ever really needed.
Fire drills are also an important evaluation of your evacuation procedures. An ideal opportunity to test how effective your emergency plans are, they allow you to quickly identify any flaws or weaknesses which may be present and then make any changes as a result. For example, if some of your staff gather their belongings before leaving, you can ensure everyone is aware that action is against all fire safety recommendations and that, in a real life situation, they may be putting their lives in danger. Similarly, if you find one of your exits is blocked, or too narrow for your employees to quickly escape, you should plan an alternative or additional route.
Who is responsible for a fire drill and how often should be they undertaken?
According to The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, the person responsible for all aspects of fire safety in commercial and non-domestic premises is the owner, occupier or manager. Legislation refers to this person as the ‘responsible person’ and, as such, they are in charge of ensuring all fire safety regulations, as required by law and enforced by local fire and rescue authorities, are fully complied to.
As the ‘responsible person’ you have a number of duties, including planning for an emergency and providing staff with information, fire safety instruction and training. Therefore, you must make sure regular fire drills are carried out and conducted effectively, putting into place any remedial actions which must be taken as a result of the drill’s evaluation.
In order to fulfil your legal obligations, and in accordance with all fire safety regulations, fire drills should be conducted at least once a year (more often in environments such as schools and nurseries) and the results should be recorded and kept as part of your fire safety and evacuation plan. Additionally, all new staff should be informed of your fire evacuation procedures as soon as they start work and if a new fire risk is ever noted or recognised all your employees should be told.
How do you conduct a fire drill effectively?
In essence, a fire drill is a relatively simple procedure. However, there are various things you can do before, during, and after the drill takes place to make sure it is as effective and as useful as it possibly can be…
Before carrying out the drill it is often useful to:
- Inform all employees of that a fire drill is going to happen, providing them with specific details and also firmly letting them know their participation is required.
- If you work in large premises, or multi-location premises, nominate observers to assess the fire drill, paying attention to the appropriateness of actions, the behaviour of employees and any problems which may arise during the drill.
- Additionally, if there are likely to be any visitors present at the time of the fire drill you should also pre-warn them.
Throughout the drill, the ‘responsible person’ and any nominated observers or fire safety wardens should:
- Keep an eye out for any inappropriate behaviour, such as stopping to collect coats, bags and other personal belongings.
- Closely observe any difficulties experienced by people with disabilities, such as an inability to get out of an exit or get down stairs easily.
- Make sure employees are using the nearest fire escape route, rather than just the exit they are most familiar with.
- Pay attention to any difficulties experienced as a result of the chosen escape routes, such as doors being difficult to open or exits being blocked.
- Listen closely to the roll call taken once the evacuation has been completed, making sure everyone is present and accounted for and checking for any issues which may arise.
After the drill, it is vital the person in charge:
- Thoroughly and comprehensively logs all details of the fire drill, including how the evacuation procedure went and any inappropriate actions or problems which were noted as a result.
- Any significant findings of the drill should be recorded within the Fire Risk Assessment and reviewed regularly as part of your workplace fire safety.
- Remedial action deemed necessary, such as the installation of additional fire safety signs or fire alarms, should be undertaken by a professional, reputable fire safety company.
Watch our Workplace Fire Safety video which explains the role of the ‘Responsible Person’ and the importance of fire drills.
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