Regardless of where you work, every one of us has experienced a fire drill at some point in our lives. Whether it was at school or in a shopping centre, or one of those strange moments when an alarm is going off and no one is doing anything about it, fire drills have become a vital part of workplace safety.
Now, you might be thinking that fire drills aren’t important, that they are an inconvenience and are more trouble than they are worth as fires aren’t that much of a common occurrence. While this way of thinking is common, going back to the fact that people have become immune to alarms going off, fire drills should be taken more seriously, as they are just as important as other fire safety measures like the alarms and fire extinguishers themselves.
To highlight the importance of fire drills and to help you carry them out successfully, we have put together this simple guide for you to follow, whatever your business.
Why is a Fire Drill Necessary?
“According to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, a fire drill must be carried out at least once a year, and all staff must be part of a fire drill at least once a year.”
Apart from the legal requirements for carrying out regular fire drills, you should also carry them out for many other reasons, namely:
- To form a complete and effective fire protection strategy (e.g fire alarms, fire extinguishers, fire safety signs and fire drills)
- To ensure all staff are aware of their roles in the event of a fire (e.g raising the alarm and giving the necessary information the 999 call handler, evacuation routes, assembly points and who to report to once evacuated)
- To ensure all staff are aware of all areas of the building
- To protect all staff and visitors from harm
Your fire drill should form part of your Fire Safety Policy, which you can devise by doing a complete Fire Risk assessment. The fire risk assessment will also tell you if you need to carry out more than one fire drill, for example, in the case of shift work where you need to make sure all staff have experienced at least one test drill.
Who Is Responsible for Carrying out a Fire Drill?
The appointed fire Marshal will usually determine when the fire Drill is to take place in collaboration with senior management, as not to impact any process/product critical times. The Fire Marshal should have a clear set of objectives to be met for each drill carried out, e.g. evacuation within a set time, evacuation of a particular area, evacuation during times of high public presence.
How Do You Carry out a Fire Drill (with manual call points)?
- A fire alarm call point is selected to be tested
- The fire marshal or appointed person sounds the alarm via the call point (if system is connected to a manned station or fire service, ensure they are informed that a drill is about to take place).
- During the alarm any fire wardens and other appointed persons (First Aid, Nominated Buddy’s, etc) should assume the role for which they have been trained
- All people leave via the nearest designated fire exit
- Fire Wardens with responsibility for particular areas to ensure their area is clear
- All personnel to assemble at the Fire Assembly Point
- Fire Marshal performs roll call to ensure everyone is accounted for
- Notification is given to return to the building when the Fire Marshal is satisfied that all objectives of the Drill have been met.
What Results Do You Record?
The fire marshal is to record the drill in the Fire Log Book.
Items to record include:
- Date and time of the evacuation
- The call point tested to start the siren
- How long did the evacuation take?
- Were there any unexpected delays/hazards encountered by personnel during the evacuation?
- Did the alarm sound in all locations?
- Did any automatic doors release or shutters operate as designed?
- Did any individual Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans work as planned?
How Do You Assess the Outcomes?
Assessing the outcomes of a fire drill is fairly simply, all you need to ask yourself is:
- Was the evacuation a success?
- Did the evacuation highlight and deficiencies in current operations? – any feedback from staff can help answer this
- How will any outcomes be taken forward? – plan, do, check, act.
- Does the Fire Risk Assessment need to be modified?
- How will changes be assessed in future?
Fire Drills Are Boring and Are Always the Same
Although fires don’t happen as often as they used to, fire drills still need to take place regularly to train all the staff members. This can become tedious, so you need to avoid drills that become a routine. You need to prepare your staff for a real fire, so they need to be prepared for the unexpected!
In order to vary the responses from staff and nominated persons, it is sometimes a good idea to change any variables, for example:
- Lock a fire door that would normally be used by one section of the premises, and monitor the subsequent response
- Ask a member of staff to feign injury during the drill, and monitor responses by other staff
The purpose of a drill is to prepare you for the real thing, so try and make it as realistic as possible and staff will respond in a realistic manner.
What Is a Fire Log Book?
“The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) requires that the ‘responsible person’ for premises should ensure that all fire safety facilities, equipment and devices are maintained in efficient working order and in good repair.”
Fire safety log books record the safe maintenance of Fair Safety items.
- Fire Fighting Systems e.g.
- Fire extinguishers
- Sprinkler systems
- Wet and Dry Risers
- Fire Spread Prevention Measures Operated e.g.
- Magnetic door releases
- Roller shutter closures
- Emergency Lighting Systems
- Fire Alarm Systems
- Fire Evacuation Routes
- Visitor Log for Fire Safety Related Contractors
- Visitor Log for Local Fire Service Visits
This document will ensure that all the requirements of the Fire Safety Order are met, maintained and available for scrutiny by the Fire Service.
The Fire log should form part of the Fire Safety Policy for your company.
What is a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP)?
A PEEP is a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan. It is a bespoke ‘escape plan’ for individuals who may not be able to reach the fire assembly point unaided or within a satisfactory period of time in the event of any emergency.
PEEPs may be required for staff with:
- Mobility impairments
- Sight impairments
- Hearing impairments
- Cognitive impairments
- Other circumstances
A temporary PEEP may be required for:
- Short term injuries (i.e. broken leg)
- Temporary medical conditions
- Those in the later stages of pregnancy
The underlying question in deciding whether a PEEP is necessary is “can you evacuate the building unaided, in a prompt manner, during an emergency situation?” If the answer is “no”, then it is likely that a PEEP is needed. The PEEP should be identified at the induction stage of employment and devised as part of an individual’s Personal Risk Assessment for employment.
If you follow this guide, you should have no trouble carrying out your fire drills successfully, and if you keep updating your assessments accordingly, every evacuation should be as efficient as the last.
What we can do for you…
If you need any advice or further information about fire drills, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Active HSE. We regularly carry out Fire Risk Assessments for businesses, so we can advise you on what you need to do.