Ensure everyone is on board
Now it’s time to get down to the drill. Once you have your fire evacuation plan in place, you know the routes. But it’s not as easy as simply pulling the alarm lever. Everyone needs to be on board when you conduct a fire drill at work. First of all, you must ensure the entire fire team (from the director on down) is trained, informed, and ready to make the drill a success. You need executive buy-in, since the drill will take people away from the factory line, their desks, and the warehouse. And perhaps most importantly, all employees need to understand the importance of the fire drill, otherwise they won’t take it (or you) seriously.
Communicate your plan
The key to a successful fire drill at work is communication. Announce the first fire drill in every place employees will see it, including platforms such as an employee portal, intranet, or website; Slack channel; newsletter; and text message. Employee communication software that covers the most common communication channels will make this a lot easier. Schedule the fire drill on the company Outlook or Google calendar. Include the fire team and their roles, evacuation maps, and expectations.
Set goals for your fire drill
Your fire team will want to set goals and standards for the drill. If you include these in your first drill, you can try to improve them in subsequent drills. For instance, if your first drill takes 15 minutes to get everyone safely outside, because you discover people are visiting the restroom or wrapping up calls, you have work to do.
Some metrics to measure:
- Time to evacuate
- Time to report completion of the drill
- Successful shutdown of equipment (where appropriate)
Rehearse the fire drill
Conduct rehearsals of increasing complexity. For example, your fire team leaders could first rehearse “on paper” where they describe the plan to the fire warden. Then, the team should describe their actions during a fire drill and analyze any perceived weaknesses or confusion. After the fire team leaders understand their roles, they should physically walk through the fire drill.
Next, you should conduct a full rehearsal with as many of your employees as possible. Large companies may favor doing this by building or by section to prevent business disruptions.
Once your employees have mastered a basic fire drill, your fire team should design more intricate scenarios. Change up variables within the drill to train employees on how to react when disaster strikes. By adding obstacles such as closed stairwells, broken elevators, and blocked exits, you can simulate a more realistic environment.
The Rally Point
Fire drills are not successful unless every employee is accounted for outside of the building. This crucial step of the drill occurs at the rally point. The rally point should be a pre-designated location that is strategically placed outside the building. For large companies, multiple rally points should be created for maximum efficiency with a separate fire team leader at every point.
For those who may have lost their phones while evacuating, fire team leaders should also utilize old school roll call to ensure that every employee is accounted for.
If someone is missing, fire team leaders should follow the predetermined reporting protocol and immediately alert the authorities as well as the entire fire team.
When you conduct a fire drill at work, you should choose a few people who are not on the fire evacuation team to act as neutral observers. They should be tasked with looking for the following:
- Large groups moving slowly or talking with each other
- People on cell phones or using other mobile devices
- Unhelpful behavior such as grabbing coats, purses, and bags
- Difficulties for people with disabilities such as hard-to-open doors or slippery stairs
- Employees who choose a different exit rather than the one closest to their work station
At the conclusion of the fire drill, the observers should conduct a debriefing going over their observations. The meeting location is a convenient place to conduct this debrief, since memories of the drill will be fresh. Gather the fire team together to go over what happened and what can be improved for next time. Assess all of the steps above and compile notes on what worked flawlessly and what was sub-par.
Deep-dive into questions such as:
- Did employees close the doors upon exiting rooms?
- Were employees calm and confident?
- Did everyone meet at their assigned meeting spot?
- Was the fire alarm reset and the alarm company notified of the drill? (if applicable)
- Did all employees get the alert from your emergency notification system?
- Did the building facilities (doors, alarms, automated voice commands) work correctly?
Here are some other things to consider as you plan for your fire drill at work:
- Work in various realistic scenarios for future drills such as “this hallway is on fire” or “this door won’t open.”
- As new employees are on-boarded, a simple walk-through of their evacuation route could be handled by their new manager.
- Conduct drills at random times to simulate a real-world scenario.
- Companies with extensive chemicals and equipment should ideally conduct fire drills every three months. For most everyone else, twice per year is adequate.
- If a key fire team leader leaves the company, make sure to replace them immediately and then do a leaders-only fire drill walk-through.
Fire drills are no joke, and your employees will appreciate the thought and planning that went into making your drills efficient and professional. Everyone should be confident that in the event of a fire, all colleagues will have the best chance to safely exit the building.
In case of a fire at your facility, please call Fire Brigade: 0421222 / 0714667752
If you need an ambulance please call our toll free line: 0800111044