Whether you are responsible for the workplace fire safety of a commercial office building, a retail space or an educational institution, knowing when and how to conduct a fire drill correctly is an important part of your responsibilities. Just like fire alarm servicing, fire extinguisher servicing, and emergency lights testing, fire drills are a preventative measure taken to achieve regulatory compliance and ensure that your staff, as well as your visitors and your property, are sufficiently protected in case of a fire emergency. 

Read along to find out how to conduct an effective fire drill at work and stay on top of your fire safety legal duties. 

What Are Fire Drills and Why Are They Needed?

Simply put, a fire drill is a fire safety exercise where the people in a building (whether they are staff or guests) are required to follow the fire emergency evacuation plan (FEEP) in a simulated fire emergency situation. As part of the process, the fire alarm is sounded and the fire evacuation procedure is implemented to test its efficiency. 

Conducting regular fire drills is an essential part of the fire safety awareness of your employees. Taking part in these practice runs teaches your staff what they need to do so in the event of a real fire, they can escape to safety as quickly as possible.

Fire drills also play an important function in the evaluation and revisions of your evacuation procedures, as they can be used to highlight weaknesses and inefficiencies. From the accessibility of your fire exits and safety areas to the way people respond to the fire alarm sound, every part of the process should be reviewed to find any areas of improvement. 

The Responsibility of Conducting Fire Drills

Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, the party who is responsible for every aspect of fire safety within non-domestic and commercial buildings is the occupier, owner or manager of the premises. Referred to in the legislation as a “responsible person”, the party with the duty of fire safety is in charge of ensuring that all fire safety regulations are complied with.

Duties of the Responsible Person

Should you be designated as the responsible person, you will be in charge of several duties, including emergency planning and fire safety training of employees. You will also be in charge of conducting regular fire drills and keeping a record of them as a part of the fire safety and evacuation plans. 

In addition, you should train all new staff on your evacuation procedures when they start their employment with you, as well as inform all members of staff when new fire risks emerge and revisions to the fire safety procedures. It is your responsibility to ensure that everyone in the business is familiar with the correct evacuation procedures and has basic fire safety knowledge, such as how to use a fire extinguisher and understanding what the different fire extinguisher types are used for.

How often should you conduct a fire drill?

Under the legal obligations, the responsible person should ensure that fire drills are carried out at least once per year, and more often in locations of vulnerable people, such as care homes, schools and nurseries.

Effectively Conducting a Fire Drill

Fire drills should be simple and easy to follow. In practice, however, many variables can crop up affecting the effectiveness of the fire evacuation procedure. 

As the responsible person, you can improve the chances of success of your fire drill by:

  • Giving employees prior warning to conducting a fire drill, ensuring that they are aware of any specific information and informing them that their participation is mandatory
  • Nominating observers to assess the fire drill can help in the revision of the effectiveness of the drill, as well as the behaviour of employees during the drill itself. This is mostly suitable for larger commercial settings 
  • Pre-warning any visitors present at the time of the fire drill

When conducting the fire drill, any responsible persons, as well as nominated observers and fire wardens should:

  • Ensure that employees use the nearest, most practical escape route, as opposed to the exit most familiar to them
  • Observing employee behaviours to mark inappropriate acts, such as attempting to retrieve belongings
  • Track any difficulties with designated escape routes, such as blockages or faulty doors
  • Note challenges that may occur for people with disabilities, including things such as stair routes, narrow exits or inadequate doors
  • Ensuring that everyone is present and accounted for during the roll call

Once the Fire Drill is Completed

When the fire drill is finished, the responsible person should:

  • Keep a detailed log of each fire drill including notes on the success of the evacuation procedure, as well as any issues or inappropriate behaviour demonstrated during the drill
  • Suggest revisions to the fire safety protocol, procedures and any alterations to the premises. Those should be implemented by specialist fire safety engineers.
  • Ensure that all findings of significance are recorded in the fire risk assessment and regularly reviewed

If you require advice or guidance on fire safety training, PAT testing, fire alarm servicing or fire extinguisher servicing, give the experts at Cardinal Fire a call today, we are more than happy to help.