Despite all the work carried out by businesses, the government and the emergency services, fires cannot be avoided entirely. This is why, no matter how good your fire risk assessment, and fire prevention strategy, you must also have a sound procedure in place for evacuating people from the workplace should a fire break out. This is something that needs to be clear, written down, readily available for anyone to see, and also easily communicable to those in charge in the event of an emergency. In this article, we’re going to look at some of the main points that you will need to think about in your fire evacuation procedure.
Note: It’s important to remember that this list is not exhaustive, and certain premises will call for different procedures.
When a fire is discovered, it’s anyone’s responsibility to raise the building’s fire alarm. All plans need to include alarm locations, and it should be made clear to individuals that they do not need to wait for approval to raise the alarm if they believe a dangerous fire has broken out.
As soon as anyone is in a safe position to do so, the fire brigade must be contacted. The earlier they are informed of the fire, the sooner they can reach the premises, and the more effective their response can be. Remember to note down in your plans if the fire alarm automatically notifies the emergency services as is the case in certain buildings.
Getting everyone out of the building, including any visitors as well as staff, is the most important task, and this needs to be done quickly and safely. The quickest routes out of the building must be identified beforehand, and they need to be clearly communicated to those on premises. This will mean escape route maps and emergency exit signs in any premises larger than a few rooms. Note that in certain large complex buildings, the evacuation
procedure will not call for everyone to leave at once, but rather stagger things in order of who is most at risk.
As part of the escape planning, you will need to consider those who are less able than others. Elevators must not be used in the event of a fire, which means that you may need specialist equipment or help to ensure that those in wheelchairs or who are otherwise disabled can make their escape swiftly and safely.
In order to ensure that the evacuation has been successful, anyone leaving the building must assemble at a pre-planned designated location. This is often the workplace car park or similar open space away from the danger. At this location, designated fire marshals must take a register to determine who has evacuated and who has not.
During the process of evacuation, it may be appropriate for trained employees to use fire fighting equipment such as extinguishers to tackle the fire if it is believed to be small and manageable. The locations of such equipment should be clearly marked on escape routes. However, it’s essential to remember that fighting the fire is primarily the responsibility of the fire brigade; anyone in doubt should always make their escape rather than attempt to deal with the fire.
To find out more about fire safety in the workplace, including legislation that businesses must follow, consider taking the Virtual College course on the subject. Click here to find out more about what the course covers and whether it’s right for your business.