Tecserv’s guide to fire drills

January 30th, 2019

We’ve all been at work or visiting a business when the fire alarm has sounded and everyone has turned to look at each other and asked the question – “has the fire alarm gone off because of a real fire or is it a practice?”

These crucial seconds spent deliberating whether to evacuate or not could be the difference between life or death, and highlights just one reason why it is important to regularly practice a fire drill.

How many fire drills should you hold annually?

Legally, there is no set figure for the number fire drills to have each year, albeit advice from Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OHSA) recommends that drills are held ‘as regularly as necessary’ to ensure employees are kept prepared for a fire.

When to have a fire drill?

Whilst best practice is to ensure the fire alarm is sounded at the same time and day each on a weekly or monthly basis, there may be some businesses where this might not be possible. For example retailers may not wish to inconvenience and confuse customers and companies that operate shift rota’s who need to ensure all workers recognise the firm alarm.

Having a regular routine for practicing the fire drill helps to reduce the impact of unwanted or false fire alarm activations and ensure staff are prepared for a real fire.

Why have a fire drill?

The fire drill is an opportunity to ensure that your fire alarm is working and that everyone in your building can hear or see an alarm sounding device in their work location. This is a great way to ensure your fire alarm is operating correctly and enables you to call in specialists to fix any faults that have been found. Depending on the fault, you will be able to decide if the fix is urgent or if it can wait until the next scheduled maintenance visit.

This practice also ensures that employees and visitors recognise the sound of your fire alarm, particularly if your business uses other audible sounders for other ‘events’ such as lunch breaks or end of shift.

A fire drill that is well rehearsed and understood by all staff means that should a fire break out, your employees and any visitors or customers to your business can be guided to safety as quickly as possible.

Should employees be told about a fire drill?

Employees should certainly be aware when you plan to hold a practice fire drill as this will avoid them having to evacuate the building. This notification can be done over a voice announcement system or via an email on the day of the practice. Be sure to stress that this is not an excuse to ignore the practice –  you still need their eyes and ears to ensure the alarms are sounding.

Impromptu fire drills should not be announced as the purpose of this fire drill is to ensure staff are able to fully practice the fire evacuation procedure and help ensure everyone is guided to safety as quickly as possible.

Who is responsible for a workplace fire drill?

The responsible individual (RI) is the person ultimately responsible for fire safety in the workplace. When it comes to arranging and actioning the fire drill procedures the RI may also appoint a number of fire wardens who, during a practice will follow a checklist for areas and devices they must check. Should a full building evacuation take place, they will be responsible for co-ordinating those gathered in their ‘fire assembly zone’ and carrying out a register /head count.

Recording a fire drill has taken place

The date and time of fire drill and any information gathered during the fire drill should then be recorded in your fire log book so that at the next maintenance inspection the fire alarm engineer has a record when the system was last activated and of any issues that have been reported.

As the RI, fire safety is your responsibility, therefore it is crucial that you ensure your fire alarm system is regularly maintained.

Should a fire break out which involves a follow up investigation, any failures to ensure your system is fully operational so could mean you and any others who are responsible for fire safety being held accountable for any inadequate practices or procedures that may be found. This could result in a heavy fine or even a prison sentence.

The fire drill checklist

  • Have a written and approved fire safety drill procedure. Display prominently around buildings
  • Ensure all staff are trained in the procedures they must follow during a fire drill
  • Appoint a suitable number of fire wardens and ensure they are trained and fully understand their responsibilities
  • Practice the fire drill on a regular basis such that staff are kept prepared
  • Hold impromptu fire drills that include a full building evacuation so that staff can practice a full fire drill
  • Keep your fire log book up to date and ensure the date and time of all fire drills is recorded
  • Document any issues or faults and report to management and your fire alarm maintenance company

If your fire alarm system has not been inspected by a competent person, or you need assistance defining your fire drill procedures, Tecserv UK can help.

Our engineers are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and are trained to inspect fire alarm systems. We have distributor agreements with most of the major manufacturers, so if we can help give you peace of mind by ensuring you meet the legal requirements for fire alarm maintenance, please get complete the enquiry form below.