Most people learned about fire drill procedures while in school. When the building’s fire alarm activated, everyone would quickly and quietly follow their 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 essential for employee safety. The National Fire Protection Agency reports an average of 3,340 fires in office properties per year.
Fire and evacuation procedures aren’t as simple as getting in a single file line and following the leader in the workplace. 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 correct 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
Business owners need to empower their employees to make the right decisions quickly if and when a fire occurs. Here are five steps to follow to ensure successful workplace fire drills.
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 make the plan.
At a minimum, your fire and evacuation plan should include:
- The preferred message for reporting/alerting fellow employees to fires and other life safety emergencies
- Evacuation policies and procedure
- Designated safe assembly locations
- Emergency escape procedures and route assignments, such as floor plans, maps, and secure 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 entire 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 allow team members to ask questions.
Step 3: Conduct a Fire Drill and Track Results
Now it’s time to conduct a workplace fire drill. Sound the fire alarm to be heard and 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. To run effective fire drills, track how quickly every employee can exit and meet at the proper location, and then improve your time during the next exercise.
Step 4: Motivate Employees to Improve Participation
Even though practicing a fire evacuation plan can be life-saving, some employees 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 relevant to your team, such as extra time for lunch or leaving early on a Friday.
Step 5: Conduct Regular Fire Drills
Practice makes perfect! Create a culture of preparedness in the workplace by conducting regular fire drills. Businesses can enable their employees to respond to fires immediately and appropriately by pairing routine fire alarm tests and exercises with consistent training.
To prevent fire drills 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 an actual potential situation and force employees to react.
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Keeping Your Workplace Safe with Succesful Fire Drills
To help employees respond quickly and safely to workplace fires, businesses need a proactive fire and evacuation plan that clearly outlines fire drill procedures. Companies also need functional fire alarm systems as necessary as the procedures are.
Fire alarm systems, including alarms, strobe lights, and smoke detectors, can save lives and should be regularly maintained and tested by experienced fire protection technicians to ensure their continued reliability and proper functionality.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on March 13, 2019, and has been updated for accuracy and current best practices.