Fire Drills: How Often Should They Be Performed and Other Questions
Fire drills can often feel like a time-wasting exercise. But although few people enjoy managing them, their value can be enormous. In fact, they play as great a role in your fire safety as fire alarm systems and fire extinguishers.
So, what should your fire drill entail, and how often should fire drills be performed?
What is a fire drill?
So, let’s start with the basics. A fire drill is essentially a dry run for an actual fire event. The idea is for you to practice what you and your employees would do should a real fire break out. This includes evacuation procedures, routes, and meeting points.
Why are fire drills necessary?
Fire drills are a legal requirement. Not only because it helps to familiarise employees with evacuation scenarios. But because familiarity helps to reduce the sense of panic in the event of a real fire. Fire drills are also a good way to establish what roles each person would play in a fire event. Something that is particularly important in a care home or similar environment, where team members will be responsible for helping vulnerable people to exit the building.
Fire drills also provide an excellent opportunity to identify any gaps or problems in your fire safety plan. Allowing you to improve and refine your evacuation plans, should they ever become necessary. Your fire drill is intrinsically linked to the rest of your fire safety procedures. Your employees need to be shown where and how to exit the building and assemble. They need to know what to do when a fire alarm sounds. And they need to understand their individual responsibilities. And this should be part of their introductory and annual fire safety training.
So, it’s really important not to overlook these steps. And conducting a fire drill will help to show whether everyone is up to speed.
How often do you need to perform a fire drill?
You are legally required to conduct a fire drill annually. But the HSE advises businesses to conduct fire drills at least two or three times a year. This is because the better everyone understands what to do in the event of a fire, the better the outcome will be if a real fire breaks out.
Who is responsible for fire drills?
According to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, the person responsible for the management of the premises and/or business is accountable for fire safety. So, this will usually be the owner, occupier, or manager. In most instances, this person will then delegate the management of fire drills to their fire marshal. An integral part of fire drill management is record keeping of each event, and the assessment and implementation of any procedural changes or equipment management in relation to the drill.
How should you conduct a fire drill?
Your fire drill should comprise of the following steps.
Inform all parties – employees, visitors – who may be onsite at the intended time of the fire drill that a drill will be taking place.
The business manager or fire marshal will initiate the fire drill.
When the alarm sounds, everyone within the building should calmly move towards their closest fire exit.
All building occupants will gather at the designated assembly points.
The fire marshal[s] will observe the exit procedure, looking for any obstacles, or reasons for delays. Helping people to find an exit, where necessary or appropriate.
As people exit the building, fire marshals will ensure that their area of responsibility has been evacuated, before leaving the premises and proceeding to the assembly point.
At the assembly point, fire marshals will conduct a roll call to ensure that all known building occupants have been accounted for.
Once the fire marshal is content that the evacuation has been completed, they will allow employees to calmly return to the building.
The fire marshal will then record the fire drill in the Fire Log Book, with a particular focus on any problems that may have occurred, or issues that may need resolving.
It is then down to the fire marshal to work with the business manager to rectify the issues highlighted.
What issues should fire marshals look for in a fire drill?
Part of the purpose of the fire drill is to identify any hazards that may hinder the safe evacuation of the building. So, during the drill, fire marshals should observe:
Whether employees with mobility or sensory problems have the support they need to navigate the evacuation process.
Whether there are any other people not previously identified as having difficulties with mobility, or any other issues that may impact their ability to safely exit the building.
Any employees who may need additional training in relation to fire safety.
Any hazards or obstructions on fire escape routes, or any problems with fire doors, signage, or alarm equipment.
Fire drills are essential to the safe running of any business because they provide both familiarity and knowledge. So, although they can seem like a bit of a chore and an inevitable drain on time and productivity, taking the time to conduct regular fire drills is an investment in the future of your business.
So, when did you last perform a fire drill? Is your business as prepared as it should be?
1st Class Fire Protection is an industry-leading fire protection company serving customers throughout Norfolk, Suffolk, and the surrounding areas of Cambridgeshire. If you are looking for fire safety advice, or want to ensure that your staff is fully trained and up to date with the latest fire warden training, then get in touch today. Our experienced team of engineers can help your business stay protected.