Fire Evacuation Drills

The ability to evacuate premises safely and effectively is absolutely paramount in the event of a fire or other emergency, and the procedure should be familiar to all employees and visitors and practised in regular drills. Churchesfire’s Fire Safety Team (hyperlink) is expert in correct evacuation procedures and can provide all the necessary advice.

Whatever training is deemed necessary to support the fire safety strategy and emergency plan, should be verifiable. Enforcing authorities may want to examine records as evidence that adequate training has been given.

Once the emergency plan has been developed and training provided, it will need to be practically evaluated for its effectiveness in the form of a fire drill, carried out at least annually or as determined by the Fire Risk Assessment. If there is high staff turnover, drills may need to be carried out more often.

A well-planned and executed fire drill will confirm understanding of the training and provide helpful information for future training. The Responsible Person should identify the objectives of the drill, which are typically:

  • To identify any weaknesses in the evacuation strategy.
  • To test the procedure following any recent alteration or changes to working practices.
  • To familiarise new members of staff with procedures.
  • To test the arrangements for disabled people and young persons on work experience.

Who should take part?

Within each building, the evacuation should include all occupants except those who may need to ensure the security of the premises, or people who, on a risk-assessed basis, are required to remain with particular equipment or processes that cannot be closed down.

Premises that consist of several buildings on the same site should be dealt with one building at a time, over an appropriate period, unless the emergency procedure dictates otherwise.
Where appropriate, it may be found helpful to include members of the public in the fire drill – ensuring that all necessary health and safety issues are addressed before this is done.

Carrying out the drill

For premises that have more than one escape route, the escape plan should be designed to evacuate all people on the assumption that one exit or stairway is unavailable because of the fire.

This could be simulated by a designated person being located at a suitable point on an exit route. Applying this scenario to different escape routes at each fire drill will encourage individuals to use alternative escape routes which they may not normally use. When carrying out the drill it might be found helpful to:

  • Circulate details concerning the drill and inform all staff of their duty to participate. It may not be beneficial to have ‘surprise drills’ as the health and safety risks introduced may outweigh the benefits.
  • Ensure that equipment can be safely left.
  • Nominate observers.

Monitoring and Debrief

Throughout the drill the Responsible Person and nominated observers should pay particular attention to:

  • Communication difficulties with regard to the roll call and establishing that everyone is accounted for.
  • The use of the nearest available escape routes as opposed to common circulation routes.
  • Difficulties with the opening of final exit doors.
  • Difficulties experienced by people with disabilities.
  • The roles of specified people, for example fire wardens
  • Inappropriate actions such as stopping to collect personal items and attempting to use lifts
  • Windows and doors not being closed as people leave.

On-the-spot debriefs are useful to discuss the fire drill, encouraging feedback from everybody.
Later, reports from fire wardens and observations from people should be collated and reviewed. Any conclusions and remedial actions should be recorded and implemented.