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The importance of fire drills

Workplace safety is not something that can be neglected. Your employees have the right, both personally and legally, to work in an environment where their health and safety is protected.

How people behave in high-pressure situations, such as fires, can vary but this factor can be hugely important when it comes to effective evacuation. Fire drills allow staff to practice evacuation procedures in a simulated situation to ensure they are fully aware of how to safely exit the building.

The more familiar staff are with fire drill procedures, the higher the chance that staff will remain safe and well during an emergency. Regular fire drills will help to underpin the correct procedures and remove panic and uncertainty for all concerned.

Fire drills are also an important opportunity to analyse how effective the evacuation procedure is and how efficient the exit routes are, so that changes can be made to improve the strategy in the future, but perhaps the most important thing to remember is that fire drills are a legal requirement for all businesses.

As an employer, you are legally obliged to carry out fire drills at least once a year, though it’s advisable to carry them out more regularly, particularly if your workplace has many risk factors. It is important to also highlight that each time a fire drill is carried out, the results must be recorded.

Ideally, you should involve ALL personnel in at least one fire drill per year, and if you operate various shift patterns (even into the night), each shift should be covered too, as fires don’t just break out during the day! Staff should be informed of the upcoming fire drill beforehand to ensure maximum attendance and to give everyone the opportunity to understand what their roles and responsibilities are. In addition, it gives staff time to prepare and will not cause any unnecessary panic or chaos. However, some people may argue for not informing staff as it will allow for a more authentic experience. Talk to your staff and see which they would prefer or talk to a fire safety professional.

The success of a fire drill depends on how well you prepare for it. Steps will differ depending on the scale, layout, and the complexity of your premise.

Here are a few key stages you can carry out to prepare for a fire drill:

  • Ensure that you have the appropriate number of fire wardens: Carefully select fire wardens from your staff who are competent, trustworthy and have undergone the necessary training. Ensure that you have enough fire wardens to cover for periods of holiday and sickness too.
  • Keep a register updated: A simple step, but a crucial one. It’s vital that you are aware of who is supposed to be in the building at the time of the fire drill so you KNOW that the building has been cleared of all occupants, including any scheduled visitors who should always be immediately signed in and out at reception.
  • Clear the way: Ensure all evacuation routes are clear to prevent injury during evacuation.

There are also a number of things you can do to ensure that you get the most use out of your fire drill;

  • Time it: Record the time it takes for the building to be evacuated and for everyone to be congregated at the fire assembly points. If the process is taking too long, you may wish to investigate ways to speed up the process whilst not encouraging rushing.
  • Make observations: Fire drills happen infrequently, so it’s important you use this invaluable opportunity to take note of any key observations about the effectiveness of the procedure.
  • Record your drill: Keep records of all fire drills and the people involved in them as part of your fire safety regime. You may be asked to provide evidence of fire drills by a Fire Safety Inspector.

For any further information regarding the fire drills or fire safety in general please get in touch