Doing a fire drill at a property can cause people’s eyes to roll in disappointment and having to do a practice-run of leaving the property when the fire alarm goes off – particularly when its cold and wet outside.
Fire Marshall jackets suddenly go on, everyone stops everything, and there is a slow exodus outside to the Fire Assembly Point awaiting for someone to check that everything went okay.
However inconvenient they are, they are still very necessary in order to actually go through how people safely vacate the building in a fire or emergency, after all lives are literally at stake.
And unfortunately, even with all the best theory and preparation in the world, there will always be issues to iron-out in a practice-run, even for the smaller properties with less multiple-occupation issues.
Therefore, here are our top seven pointers to getting this working easily. From a property-management perspective you need these bigger-picture ones in order to ensure that everything runs smoothly for any real-life incidents:
1. Double-Whammy Documentation
Remember that all you’re doing with a fire drill is practicing what is already there as a procedure so everyone is fully aware of – hence knowing the two main pieces of documentation along these lines is critical.
Firstly, the Fire Evacuation Procedure which everyone should be aware of as to how you practically vacate the property and alert everyone else.
And secondly, the Fire Marshall Policy which details how any Fire Marshall needs to help co-ordinate matters, whether individual for each occupier or those for the overall building.
2. How Often
Six months is a common timing for doing these, however it can be up to twelve or less than six if circumstances dictate.
Ideally these are done when as many actual people one using the property, so maybe during the working day at a block of offices, and with as little notice to them as possible so it all happens without pre-planning.
Reality though can be a different, therefore make sure it’s covering the basics and advisors like the Fire Risk Assessor are happy with this.
3. Who Organises
This is straight forward when it’s just one occupier in one building, as they simply arrange it themselves either direct or through a contractor.
However, when it comes to multiple-let properties it becomes more tricky, and ideally the overall landlord or managing agent will need to organise so that it all ties together, particularly with a fire alarm that is alerting everyone in the building.
But even when this is understood, think through who you practically need to do this on site. So maybe the managing agent to go through the procedures side, but also the contractor of the fire alarm systems to ensure things technically happen correctly.
You also may need to involve any external monitoring service and key-holder on site for the the first few ones in order to make sure everyone knows what their role is and it all happens together.
4. Clear Communication
Communication is key here, after all people need to know that there is an emergency and inform others accordingly.
So right at the start, make sure everyone takes the alarm seriously and leaves the building quickly and not spending time say collecting unneccesray items.
At the final Fire Assembly Point everyone needs to be accounted for and communicated to the right Fire Marshalls.
And everything in between needs to happen. So when an alarm is first actioned, someone on site or through a remote system needs to check whether this is a real incident and call the emergency services accordingly.
They may need to liaise with people on site, so even having a list of those available on a mobile assuming that they will have left the building and not be able to answer any landlines.
5. The All-Clear
So you’ve completed the fire drill and everyone is now waiting outside at the Fire Assembly Point – an essential question then is what do people do then and when can they go back into the building.
This can actually take more time than people realise, and in the meantime they are itching to go back in the building, particularly when they’re getting wet outside or they suspect it is only a false alarm anyway.
But hold tight, everyone must be accounted for, and then someone give the final okay. The building and alarm will have to be swept and checked before any final go-ahead is issued.
6. Problem Solving
Problems are actually okay to have, so long as you deal with them. After all this reflects real life, and having none indicates that it’s actually too theoretical.
So look through the whole process and see where issues and bottle-necks are. Maybe people are using the lift when they shouldn’t do and it needs isolating, or people don’t know where the correct Fire Assembly Points are.
Some may be struggling to manage vulnerable or disabled persons, or even rushing back in to collect personal items.
7. Getting Documented
The final part is getting all this documented, ideally a summary of how the whole process went with important data like how long it took to evacuate the property, the timing of this, and who was present.
Going back to the first point, this needs to link to the policies and any actions communicated to the right people and reviewed.
Drilling Down to the Basics
As you look to arrange regular fire drills at a property, its essential to get these basic issues clarified in order to make sure the whole exercise from start to finish operates smoothly. Unfortunately all it takes is one breakdown in communication or missing part for the building and more importantly people’s live to be at risk.
Therefore whether you’re an occupier wanting to arrange for your area, or you’re a landlord or managing agent overseeing for a larger multi-occupied property, begin working through these basics with a competent person dealing with fire issues to all get finally agreed.
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