The Effectiveness of Fire Drills

02 February 2019
The Effectiveness of Fire Drills

Whether you work in an office, school, factory, club or retail outlet, fire drills are an important part of workplace safety, and aim to protect everyone from the devastating consequences of a fire. Fire drills are an indirect, but significant form of fire protection that are often viewed as an inconvenience. Their intent is to make an evacuation as simple and efficient as possible, whilst ensuring all employees and persons are familiar with plans.


What are fire drills?


A fire drill is a simulated procedure which aims to replicate the processes which would be taken in the event of a fire and similar emergencies. It includes crafting a scenario which replicates what would happen should a real fire occur. They usually include fire alarms, and requires every employee to evacuate and register, whilst meeting at a designated area in an orderly and safe fashion.


Why are they necessary?


They are an important evaluation of your current evacuation procedure, and therefore test how effective your emergency plans are. They help you identify any weaknesses and flaws, and then make changes as a result. For example, if one of the exit routes is blocked or too narrow, employees will learn alternate routes. It is recommended to train new staff when they commence work and tell all employees about new fire risks. At least one fire drill should take place per year, and the results must be kept as part of your fire safety and evacuation plan.


Who is responsible for fire drills?


The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order states that the person responsible for all aspects of fire safety in commercial and non-domestic properties is the owner, occupier or manager. They are required, by law, to follow all regulations and fire safety rules. The duties of person include planning for emergencies, providing staff with information and training, and recording results and details to be kept, fulfilling legal obligations.


What are the best tips for organising a workplace fire drill?


Creating a plan is the most important part of fire drill preparation. You need to establish the best escape routes, make the meeting point clear and safe, get everyone to participate in the drills, and have a trained team assembled to help oversee everything, and to measure the performance. Whilst communication is key, everything needs to be as clear as possible. Using emails, portals and websites to indicate procedures and policies will help aide knowledge of fire safety. Deciding whether it is an announced drill or unannounced is down to the owner, and what they feel is best for the staff. Observers will need to be on the lookout for anyone who chooses an exit which is not the designated one to take. They also need to find and assist anyone who has mobility issues or other physical disabilities. Goals must be established for the fire drill, to determine if the evacuation was good, or inadequate. For example, setting an estimated time or seeing if essential equipment was shut down etc, are two common goals for office-based drills. Any visitors present at the time should be pre-warned, and a time period of 30 minutes should be allocated for the drill, although it shouldn’t take that long. It is important to keep an eye out for inappropriate behaviour, such as coat collecting, texting etc, and to make those individuals aware that this is wrong. Following the drill, listen closely and check through registers/roll calls to make sure everyone is present and accounted for.


How should you evaluate?


Debriefing should take place right after the drill, to look at the findings and discuss the effectiveness of the evacuation procedures. Particular attention should be made to the highlighted points, and everyone should share their ideas on how the drill could’ve been more effective. A plan for the future should be devised, and then put into action, with a follow-up email, message or staff meeting summarising the fire drill along with changes/additions to the fire evacuation and safety plan.


What can be done in the mean-time to help with fire safety?


Installing and maintaining certain fire safety equipment is important, and WJ Fire provides approved, quality services and products to help give you peace of mind. Our Fire Extinguishers carry the British Standard Kitemark and are manufactured to the highest standard in the UK. They are designed to be user-friendly and effective, with colour coding, controllable discharge and squeeze grip operation. There are many different types available, all designed for different purposes- water, dry special power, spray foam etc. We can also design, install, commission and maintain fire alarm systems, all to the current British standard BS 5839-1: 2013, and offer weekly and 6 monthly fire alarm tests on your site. Other products and services available from WJ Fire include Safety Signs, Emergency Lights, Staff Training Days and Bespoke Fire Safety Packages.


Whether you like or dislike fire drills, they are a vital part of fire safety, and your workplace will be a much safer place because of them. For more information on how we can help you, and to discuss the full range of fire safety services available, please call us on 01420 476071 or call us on info@wjfire.co.uk.

Don’t forget to read the previous posts The Importance of Fire Protection and Keeping Warm in the Cold.