The fire drill is an unavoidable event that evokes all kinds of emotions – there’s the summertime fire drill, when everyone is all too happy to put down tools and have five minutes in the sunshine chatting.
Then there’s the rainy day fire drill, that invariably makes you trudge outside in the cold and the rain – without stopping to collect belongings or, more importantly, coats!
But despite the mixed reactions, or the time of year, fire drills are an absolutely essential event in every work calendar…
1. Practice makes perfect!
The first, and most important reason for a fire drill is the experience it gives. It’s vital that everyone in the building knows and understands the evacuation plan, so in the event of a real emergency, they know which staircase to take, where the fire exits are located, where the assembly point is and most importantly – that there is no need to panic.
Your staff should undergo sufficient fire awareness training to prepare them for an emergency and ensure they have all the information they need to respond appropriately to a fire drill or real situation.
2. Identify weak spots
No matter how thoroughly you organise your escape from a burning building, it will never go to plan. There might be a corridor blocked with a stationary delivery that hasn’t been unloaded yet or a door that has been inadvertently locked for security, that you never realised could present a fire hazard until it’s hindering your escape route.
A fire drill presents the perfect opportunity to tighten up on rules and amend your risk assessment to ensure nothing like this happens in the event of a real fire outbreak.
3. Test alarms
Although it is a legal requirement that your alarms are tested weekly to ensure they never fail in an emergency, it’s all too easy to overlook checking a sounder in the ladies bathroom, or the visual alarm devices on the top floor.
In the event of a fire drill, everything will have to be tested. Your fire marshal will have to check every area of your premises and account for every body – and it will be evident the loo alarms aren’t working if a straggler appears a few minutes after everyone else exclaiming that they didn’t hear the alarm.
4. Fulfil your legal obligations
Of course, one of the most important reasons to carry our regular fire drills is to comply with the law. According to legislation, you are required to fit your premises with an appropriate fire warning system and use it to carry out at least one fire drill every year, during working hours and it must include all staff. Every time you hire new staff, you should inform them of the fire drill procedure and ensure they are aware of all risks and the formal evacuation plan.
Every fire drill you carry out must then be recorded and if the results are less than satisfactory, you should carry out another risk assessment and update your evacuation plan to resolve any potential problems.
5. Do you have everything you need?
Since your last fire drill, your work environment may have changed, you may have hired more staff, or even staff with mobility problems or changed the layout of your premises. Although any changes in your environment should instigate a new risk assessment and result in an updated plan, testing the new plan with a fire drill is the perfect way to check you have got it right.
It may become apparent that you need to install more emergency lighting or a new fire escape sign, or even invest in a new alarm with flashing beacons to warn deaf people or the hard of hearing. Whatever your fire drill uncovers, it allows you the chance to correct it quickly in case of a real emergency.
Keeping all your staff fully trained is the best way to ensure a fire drill is effective at fulfilling every purpose. For more information about your legal requirements, the best way to protect our business and staff and professional fire awareness training for your team – contact the experts at Health & Safety Training Ltd.