How to conduct a fire drill at workNo one expects to have a fire or other disaster at work, but they happen every day in office buildings across the country. We like to think of our workplaces as predictable outposts full of copiers, machines, and maybe a few too many meetings. But the truth is that when a fire breaks out, employees’ lives can be on the line. You and your company’s leaders need to be familiar with how to conduct a fire drill at work. By scheduling regular fire drills, your company can plan for a potential fire and prepare employees to exit the building safely.
1. Ensure everyone is on boardNow it’s time to get down to the drill. To start with a fire evacuation plan should be in place detailing the routes. This probably should be provided by your organization but in case are not available measures will be taken to come up with one before 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 we conduct the fire drill. First of all, we ensure the entire fire team (from the warden on down) is trained, informed, and ready to make the drill a success. We 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.
2. Communicate your planThe 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. We propose to schedule the fire drill on the company Outlook or Google calendar. Include the fire team and their roles, evacuation maps, and expectations.
3. Set goals for your fire drillThe fire team will meet to set goals and standards for the drill. Since this is our
first drill, we will try to improve them in subsequent drills. For instance, if our first
drill takes 15 minutes to get everyone safely outside, because we discover people
are visiting the restroom or wrapping up calls, we shall have more work to do.
Some metrics to measure:
- Time to evacuate
- Time to report completion of the drill
- Successful shutdown of equipment (where appropriate)
4. Rehearse the fire drillPrior to fire drill D-day a meeting between Morison team and fire marshal team
will take place where the drill will be rehearsed. 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.
Finally, 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.
5. Appoint observersDuring the fire drill Morison team with some selected staffs at your premises will
be chosen as neutral observers. They should be tasked with looking for the
- 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
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?
- Were 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?
6. Other considerationsHere 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 walkthrough.
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.