How to conduct a fire drill: In this article, we will learn how to prepare for or conduct a fire drill, the 5 steps you need to incorporate, to ensure your fire drill accomplishes your goals and ways in which you and your team can practice better fire safety.
No one expects to have a fire or any other disaster at work, but the unfortunate reality is that they happen every day in office buildings across the country. Running routine fire drills has proven to be one of the most effective practices in ensuring company-wide safety during a fire.
By scheduling them regularly, you can condition employees to respond calmly and efficiently in the event of a workplace fire.
Let’s discuss what to do to develop a comprehensive fire evacuation plan.
Developing a Detailed Fire Evacuation Plan
Before you begin running drills, you first need to create a detailed fire evacuation plan. This document is your playbook and should outline how you want things to go when you actually execute the fire drill.
As part of this work, you’ll want to consider various scenarios, such as:
- Where might a fire start?
- Are there areas of the building more prone to fires, like those with kitchen appliances or chemicals?
- Do wildfires threaten your business during the summer?
- What is the fire code or maximum occupancy limit for your building, and is your office violating it?
If you don’t already have a fire evacuation plan in place, be sure to check our step by step template linked in the description below.
How to Conduct a Fire Drill at Work : Fire Drill Steps
Conducting an effective fire drill actually starts well before the drill itself. In fact, the first step is really about mindset and communicating with your teams about why it’s important to do a drill at all. Below are 5 steps to conduct fire drill:
- Step 1: Ensure everyone is on board
Everyone needs to be on board when you conduct a fire drill at work. First, you must ensure the entire fire team is trained on the evacuation procedures and ready to make the drill a success.
Next, you need executive buy-in, since the drill will take people away from the factory line, their desks, and the warehouse. And perhaps most important, all employees need to understand the critical nature of the fire drill. Otherwise they won’t take it or you seriously.
- Step 2: Communicate your plan
The key to a successful fire drill at work is communication. This may seem intuitive, but countless drills fail solely because employees aren’t aware due to insufficient communication.
Remember, in an actual emergency, leaving even a single employee in harm’s way represents a massive failure. You should announce the first fire drill in every place employees will see it, including platforms such as an employee portal, intranet or website; relevant Microsoft teams or Slack channels; and even your employee newsletter.
You might also send out a text message using your emergency communication solution. Having a modern multi-channel emergency communication solution will make this a lot easier.
Schedule the fire drill on the company Outlook or Google Calendar so people are aware when it will take place. You’ll likely also want to communicate important context, such as which colleagues are on your dedicated fire safety team, their roles, as well as things like evacuation routes and employee expectations to ensure a successful drill.
- Step 3: Set goals for Your Fire Drill
Before your drill, you should also establish organizational goals to document what you hope to achieve. Effective goal setting will also allow you to establish benchmarks that you can try to improve upon during subsequent drills.
For instance, if your first drill takes 15 minutes to get everyone safely outside because you discover people are visiting the rest room or wrapping up calls, you have work to do.
Some metrics to measure:
- Time from drill activation to evacuation
- Time to report completion of the drill, and
- Successful shutdown of equipment (where appropriate).
- Step 4: Rehearse the Fire Drill
The next step is to conduct rehearsals of increasing complexity. You should rehearse for your fire drill.
Rehearsals are important because you want everyone involved in executing your fire drill to be on the same page, and that requires thinking ahead to identify potential issues, addressing any confusion, and generally ensure that everyone knows what is expected of them when it’s time to play their part.
Your first rehearsal may occur solely on paper and involve your fire team leaders simply describing the evacuation plan to the fire warden.
Subsequent rehearsals may involve fire team members describing what they believe their actions should be during a fire drill, so your team can discuss and resolve any perceived weaknesses or confusion.
After the fire team leaders understand their roles, they should physically walk through the fire drill step by step so everyone has familiarity with evacuation routes.
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.
For example, by adding obstacles such as closed stairwells, broken elevators, and blocked exits, you can simulate a more realistic environment.
- Step 5: Appoint Observers
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
- People with disabilities experiencing difficulties exiting your facility due to hard to open doors, slippery stairs, or other obstacles.
- They should also keep an eye out for employees who choose a different exit rather than the one closest to their workstation.
After the fire drill, the observers should conduct a debriefing to go over their observations. You’ll want to choose a meeting location that is convenient and nearby so the debrief can occur while observations from the drill are still fresh.
Gather the fire team together to go over what happened and document what can be improved for next time. Assess all steps mentioned so far 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?
- Did all employees get the alert from your emergency notification system?
- Did the building facilities, including doors, alarms, automated voice commands, and the like, work correctly?
Other Considerations to Improve Fire Safety
Here are some other things to consider as you plan for your fire drill at work:
- Incorporate various realistic scenarios for future drills, such as “this hallway is on fire” or “this door won’t open”
- As new employees are onboarded, their new manager could demonstrate a simple walk-through of their evacuation route.
- Conduct drills at random times to simulate a real world scenario and improve overall preparedness.
- 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 that person immediately and then do a leader’s only fire drill walk-through.
Conducting effective, thoughtfully planned fire drills truly can save lives. Your employees will appreciate the thought and planning that went into making your drills efficient and professional.
As a safety leader, it’s your job to give your employees peace of mind and ensure everyone is equipped with the knowledge required to maintain business continuity if a fire or any other emergency occurs.
For that reason, evacuation skills should be considered a crucial component of every employee’s training. Of course, facilitating a drill or coordinating any other critical activity across your organization starts with communication.
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