Fire safety is one of the most important aspects of owning a property. Workplace fires can have catastrophic effects on equipment and employees if it takes hold, which makes fire evacuation drills an essential part of preparing for a fire event.
A fire evacuation drill, essentially, is a planned dry run through an evacuation procedure by the personnel inside the building. This allows them to familiarise themselves with the process, which will prevent panic during a real emergency situation and reduce the amount of time taken to evacuate during a real fire.
How often should a fire evacuation drill take place?
Regulation-wise, it is a legal requirement for you to conduct a minimum of one fire evacuation drill per year at your workplace. There's no maximum number of times you can run one, but as a good rule of thumb, once a quarter (three months) is a good frequency.
How to make a fire evacuation plan
The first part of making a fire evacuation plan is to identify the quickest, safest and most accessible escape routes out of the building to designated assembly points. The routes will need to be logical, free from clutter and obstacles and able to accommodate more than a few of the building's occupants during evacuation procedures. You should also aim to have fire extinguishers in easily identifiable locations across the routes.
You will also need to consider the needs of any employees with mobility issues and specific accessibility needs, and how that might affect their ability to quickly and safely evacuate. Your building should already have entrances and exits equipped with accessibility in mind, but it's always best to double-check.
Once the evacuation plan has been created you will need to inform your employees. Diagrams of the escape routes at personnel-heavy locations are a good start, but there's no substitute for the effectiveness of in-person fire evacuation drills.
The best practices for effective fire evacuation drills
Announce them ahead of time
A fire evacuation drill can be disruptive to a workplace, so it's always best that employees know about them ahead of time and can plan around them. You also don't want panicked employees thinking there is a real fire.
Don't constantly change things up
It's all well and good to update your fire evacuation plan to be more efficient when you can, but constantly changing it can become frustrating and makes it harder for employees to get the procedure set in their minds.
But do look for areas to improve
Reflect on the procedure each time you do it for ways you can improve. The importance of reviewing and updating your fire evacuation plan cannot be overstated. Employee feedback is especially valuable in these situations.
Do them regularly
Repetition is the key to retention. People's memories can fade over time, and you don't want to take chances with fire safety. New staff can arrive at any time and will need to familiarise themselves with the fire evacuation plan as soon as possible.
How a passive fire protection system can aid in a successful fire evacuation
Passive fire protection consists of equipment designed to slow and suppress the spread of the fire without needing human input. It is often part of the building's structure and is usually operational at all times.
Passive fire protection is very useful in helping conduct a successful fire evacuation because it increases the amount of time employees have to evacuate and it makes the conditions in the building during the evacuation more tolerable. Here's how Australian Fire Control's passive fire protection systems work to help you in your fire evacuation:
Fire doors are specialised doors that are rated to resist the effects of a fire for a certain time, slowing the spread and allowing employees more time to evacuate. They simply replace your existing doors (and function exactly like a regular door too) which makes them an excellent and unobtrusive method.
Smoke curtains are sheets of fire-rated material that drop down to cordon-off areas when a fire is detected. They are designed to section off the building to reduce the spread of smoke and fire. As smoke is a significant killer of personnel during a fire in a building, these provide a significant advantage to your employees during a fire evacuation.
The importance of fire alarms
Fire alarms are one of the most important parts of the evacuation, and are the most effective way of alerting all your employees as early as possible to the need to evacuate. They should all be linked to one another as well to ensure the widest coverage. There are governing standards regarding smoke alarm installation and placement for residential vs commercial buildings, which you can find on the Department of Fire & Emergency Services website here.
Who to speak to for more information
Every business's situation will be different, and getting unique advice tailored to your situation is invaluable. A fire risk assessment can be done at any time and is an excellent way to gauge your risk levels and any fire hazards in the premises.
Australian Fire Control is fire protection experts, and you certainly don't want anything less than the best when it comes to passive fire protection. There's no substitute for quality and there are no do-overs if things go south .
So if you want to get some advice that works for you, or you want some top-quality Australian-made passive fire protection, get in touch with us today.