Most people learned “the drill” about fire drills while in school. When the building’s fire alarm would sound, everyone would quickly and quietly follow the teacher outside and wait for instructions. While you may not be in school anymore, practicing fire and life safety procedures in the workplace is critically important for employee safety. The National Fire Protection Agency reports an average of 3,340 fires in office properties per year.
In the workplace, fire and evacuation procedures aren’t as simple as getting in a single file line and following the leader. Yet, even as adults, our first instinct in an emergency is often to look for an authority figure to tell us what to do.
Every employee needs to be empowered with the right information and training to protect themselves. Conducting periodic fire drills and highlighting workplace fire safety best practices can help save lives.
5 Steps to Running Successful Fire Drills in the Workplace
Step 1: Develop your plan
Before you can train employees in your organization’s fire and evacuation plan, you need to create the right policies and procedures. Many businesses choose to assemble a Safety Committee to create the plan.
At a minimum, your fire and evacuation plan should include:
- The preferred message for reporting/alerting fellow employees to fires and other emergencies
- Evacuation policies and procedure
- Designated safe assembly locations
- Emergency escape procedures and route assignments, such as floor plans, maps, and safe or refuge areas
- Clear roles and responsibilities for fire, evacuation, or other emergencies
Step 2: Educate your employees
Once your policies and procedures for fires and evacuations are in place, the next step is sharing the plan with employees. Be sure every employee receives this information when they first begin working at your organization and review it regularly with your full team.
The emergency plan should be documented and given to employees in written form (or another accessible form). It should also be shared in-person to give team members the opportunity to ask questions.
Also, be sure evacuation routes, fire protection equipment, and alarm pulls are clearly marked.
Step 3: Conduct a fire drill and track results
Now it’s time to conduct a workplace fire drill. Sound the fire alarm so it can be heard and/or seen 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. In order to run effective fire drills, track how quickly every employee is able to exit and meet at the proper location, then work to improve your time during the next drill.
Step 4: Motivate employees to improve participation
Even though practicing a fire evacuation plan can be life-saving, some employees simply won’t take the exercise as seriously as they should.
Consider motivating employees to improve their preparedness and efficiency. Following a successful fire drill (one with no “casualties” where everyone meets the target time), offer an incentive that is relevant to your team, such as extra time for lunch or leaving early on a Friday.
Step 5: Conduct regular drills
Practice makes perfect! Conduct fire drills regularly; consistent training ensures that the right response is immediate and second-nature.
To prevent fire drills from becoming too “routine,” consider switching up the evacuation scenario. For example, have someone stand at a certain exit with a sign reading “Exit Blocked” to simulate a real potential situation and force employees to react.
Create a culture of preparedness in the workplace by conducting regular fire drills. Empower your employees to quickly make the right decisions.
To learn more about what next steps you should take within your organization, review Osha Employee Fire Training, Fire Hazard Assessments, and other workplace fire safety best practices.