Business owners need to empower their employees to make the right decisions quickly if there’s a fire or emergency. Here are five steps to follow to ensure successful trial evacuations, or ‘‘fire drills’’.
Step 1: Develop your evacuation plan
Building owners are legally responsible for taking fire safety precautions in their buildings. This includes developing a plan for fire evacuation procedures to ensure people can be evacuated in the case of a fire or alarm of a fire.
Some buildings must have an evacuation scheme approved by Fire and Emergency New Zealand, this includes workplaces of 10 or more people. Find out if you need an evacuation scheme.
FSS can help you develop your plan. It should include things such as:
How people are alerted to fire.
Designated safe assembly points.
Roles, responsibilities and training of staff.
Step 2: Educate your employees
Once your fire evacuation plan and/or evacuation scheme is in place, the next step is sharing the plan with employees. Be sure every employee receives this information when they first join your organisation and review it regularly with your entire team.
The emergency plan should be documented and given to employees, as well as being shared in-person to allow the team to ask questions.
Step 3: Train your fire wardens
Being a fire warden comes with much more responsibility than just wearing a fluro vest. Ensure your staff understand their role as a fire warden and gain knowledge and skills to carry out an effective fire and emergency plan.
Step 4: Conduct a trial evacuation and track results
Now it’s time to conduct a trial evacuation. Sound the fire alarm to be heard by every employee.
The purpose of the fire drill is to make sure every employee understands how to get out of the building in an emergency and what to do when they get outside. To run effective fire drills, track how quickly every employee can exit and meet at the designated assembly point, and then improve your time during the next exercise.
It's also a good time to check emergency exits to ensure they’re clear and not obstructed.
Step 5: Conduct regular fire drills
Practice makes perfect! Create a culture of preparedness in the workplace by conducting regular trial evacuations. Businesses can enable their employees to respond to fires immediately and appropriately by pairing routine fire alarm tests and exercises with consistent training.
Trial evacuations should be completed every six months.
To prevent trial evacuations from becoming too “routine,” consider switching up the evacuation scenario. For example, have someone stand at a particular exit with a sign reading “Exit Blocked” to simulate a potential situation and force employees to react.