Seven Of The Most Common Mistakes With Fire Evacuation Drills

Firstly, there is insufficient advance planning for the fire drill. Best practice is to give at least three months notice of a fire evacuation drill to the responsible persons and to follow it up with two low key reminders to ensure business units or tenants are adequately prepared. If the fire drill to be as effective as possible, it is important that only a few key people know about it in advance. It is not unusual to see people, coats on, hot drink in hand, waiting in reception minutes before the evacuation begins, this just wastes everyone’s time.

Secondly, the current fire drill procedures are not reviewed. Are the current fire procedures relevant and up to date? You should consider whether anything has changed, for example evacuation routes, number of employees or risk assessment findings. If necessary, revise and reissue your procedures well in advance of the fire drill. It will also help with the ongoing provision of information to staff and others.

Thirdly, too many people are informed about the planned drill. Liaise with the people who really need to know the fire drill date. Between you, set one date that will minimize the inconvenience for the organisation. Once it has been agreed, the date should only be moved in exceptional circumstances. If the date and time are changed more than twice then it is likely to never to happen.

The fourth mistake is, failure to have Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs) in place. Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs) are essential. These are produced for those people who may require assistance with evacuation such as those with sight or mobility impairments. It is important that the evacuation drill thoroughly challenges the PEEP you have in place and the nominated employees for whom you have to provide safety assistance. To prevent additional pain or discomfort to any person affected, you may ask them to work from home on the day of the fire drill and nominate an able bodied person to stand in for them to test the PEEP. It is important that you should not allow for anyone to remain in the building during the fire drill.

The fifth mistake is, not treating a fire evacuation drill as an audit. When planning or improving your fire drill, the key is to see it as an audit. There need to be objectives, a method, records and reviews. The fire drill is not only a test of the evacuation strategy, but also a test of the effectiveness of those with special responsibilities, such as the fire wardens.

For this reason it is better that as few people as possible are aware of the impending fire drill. A fire warden must be able to carry out their responsibilities whether it is a drill, a false alarm or a real fire.

Not recording the outcome can be the sixth mistake during the fire drill. After the fire drill, you should have observed and recorded the following times:

  • start time
  • each floor or area confirmed as clear
  • successful grounding of all lifts
  • overall completion of the drill
  • minutes and seconds for full evacuation
  • any other observations

The drill should have created no more than 15 to 30 minutes of minor inconvenience. It is a small price to pay to help you avoid become part of the fire statistics.

The final and seventh mistake is, not giving feedback to everyone involved. As soon as possible after the fire drill you should review the performance of the evacuation. This should involve fire wardens, security personnel, tenant representatives and other affected parties. Ensure that comments cover both the positives and the areas for improvement. Where there are improvements identified the necessary action must be taken immediately but it should also be considered in reviewing your procedure when planning your next fire drill.

Publicise the post-evacuation report to everyone involved and keep the findings under regular review. Take the opportunity to thank everyone involved and remind them of the importance of their continued support. If you need help with planning or managing your fire evacuation drills it is available – you just need to ask.