The Importance of Fire Drills
Fire drills allow employees to practice exiting the workplace in the event of an emergency. A practiced exit plan will allow everyone to respond quickly, calmly, and safely in the event of a real emergency. Periodic drills may also be necessary as a part of your insurance coverage.
Fire Drill Objectives
The main objective of your fire drill should be to get everyone out efficiently and safely in the event of an emergency but, as a part of that, your objectives should include:
– Giving employees an opportunity to practice emergency procedures in a simulated environment
– Assessing whether employees can carry out assigned emergency duties
– Understanding whether the evacuation procedures were effective
– Considering any changes or adjustments to improve performance
– Complying with any fire code or insurance requirements
How often you hold fire drills should be determined by your local fire code and your workplace fire hazards. If your workplace presents serious fire hazards (eg. flammable materials) or complex exit procedures (eg. a high-rise building), fire drills should be conducted more frequently. For these types of workplaces, fire drills scheduled every three months may be appropriate, whereas other workplaces may only need drills every six months.
Announced vs. Unannounced
Employees prefer announced drills so that they can plan for the event and minimize disruption to their work, but unannounced drills provide a more accurate representation of evacuation readiness. The type of drill may also depend on your purpose for the event. For example, an announced drill may be preferred if you are introducing a new evacuation procedure. If employees are learning a new procedure, a scheduled drill will enable them to learn more effectively. However, since emergency situations are never planned, you also want to use unannounced drills to see how people will react and to make sure everyone can exit efficiently and safely.
Your safety team should debrief after each fire drill to assess how it went and whether any changes to procedures or roles are needed. They should consider things such as:
– Did the fire alarm go off?
– Did all employees hear the alarm?
– Did all employees evacuate?
– Did employees shut down equipment before they evacuated?
– Did fire doors release?
– Did the designated employees carry out their safety duties?
– Did employees follow evacuation routes?
– Were evacuation routes clear?
– Did any employees need assistance?
– Did employees go to assembly areas after they exited?
– Was everyone accounted for?
Using these questions, you can identify the strengths and weaknesses of your evacuation plan and make improvements. These are a critical part of workplace safety and can help protect employees from not only fire but also other situations that require a quick exit from the workplace such as power outages.