In recent years, the U.S. has seen an uptick in the number of fires that happen per year, including the number of fires at the workplace. Dealing with an emergency at work requires preparation and it’s important that every office have the occasional fire drill. Without practice, office staff will be ill-prepared when the worst happens and people need help.
Here are the steps you need to take in order to prepare your staff for your first fire drill.
Start By Talking to a Fire Marshal
It’s important to start planning your fire drill with some professionals. First, you want them to know that you’re running a drill and they don’t need to respond. Secondly, they can help you understand the laws around running a fire drill.
Scheduling a meeting with emergency responders can help you understand some of the best practices as well. Planning fire procedures require you to have evacuation routes mapped out in advance.
If you can get them down to your office, you can walk through specifics. They might offer some ideas you wouldn’t have realized on your own.
Make an In-House Safety Team
Having an in-house safety committee from each department can help you identify more issues than you would find on your own. If you can name one person as team leader from each section of your office, they can not only make recommendations, but take responsibility for their group.
In the event of a fire, your team leaders will count the people from their workgroup and establish a meeting place outdoors for that section.
They’ll be tasked with ensuring that every person from a department or section of the office gets out safely. Once you name people to this role, you’ll also have eye and ears for issues that could lead to fire hazards. You’ll keep your office safer this way.
Share Your Evacuation Routes
After you’ve talked with first responders and your teams, you’ll be able to have a mapped out framework for an evacuation. Create some written routes and maps for each section of the office and place them throughout your building.
Make sure that every employee gets to see the map of the route before you conduct your first drill. Be there to answer any questions that come up. Everyone should understand the routes and how to get to their meeting place safely.
Have your leaders there to get groups where they need to go and to walk ahead of the rest of the pack.
Change Up Scenarios
In some cases, an exit or passageways might be blocked. That means that some people won’t be able to follow their given evacuation route. Make sure you’ve posted adequate signage to lead people to each exit.
When there is an exit that’s blocked, put up a sign to make employees take alternate routes. This might mean that you have to run two or three fire drills over the course of the season, but you get to teach employees about alternate exits.
In the case of a real emergency, there won’t likely be an ideal way out. Help your employees be prepared for any scenario by giving them different drills.
Make Drills a Regular Practice
When you first start fire drills, implement them bi-weekly to get people to learn your new building. Monthly is another option if bi-weekly seems like too much.
Once your employees have understood the lay of the land, have them a little less frequently. Having them too often will make employees not take drills seriously or will keep them hanging around in the case of a real evacuation event.
Having prepared employees who are there to help one another ensures that your workplace will be safe if the worst happens.
Have Some Observers Come
Ask a few people who aren’t on your evacuation team to act as observers. Have them look for problems with your evacuation process.
If they see large groups lackadaisically walking or chatting, they should point that out. People shouldn’t be on their phones or mobile devices either. Everyone should be attentive and helping one another out if necessary.
No one should be getting their coats or bags. Everything should be left and everyone should move promptly toward the exits.
Watch for people with disabilities. if there are some doors that are hard to open or stairs that aren’t good for older people or those with disabilities, make sure to address those issues.
Your observers should make sure that everyone seems calm and confident. Make sure that everyone got to their meeting spot promptly. After the drill, make sure to reset the alarm and notify the alarm company ASAP.
If you have an emergency notification system, all employees should have heard or seen the notification. If the alarms or voice commands aren’t properly set up, it could leave people behind.
Ask observers to take detailed notes and even offer feedback. If you can get the fire marshal to observe it in plainclothes, you could also get some helpful advice on what to do to improve.
The Right Fire Drill Procedure Will Save Lives
It’s vital for you to run strong fire drill procedures to not only keep everyone safe but also to make everyone feel comfortable. In the moments of a potential fire, panic can set in and your staff can get out of hand. If they don’t know what to do or where to go, chaos can ensue.
For more on why safety is important in the workplace, check out our guide.