Whoop! Whoop! Whoop! Flashing lights! Flashing lights! Are you at a concert? No, it’s a fire drill! While your tenants might view these periodic run-throughs as unavoidable hassles that interrupt the normal business routine, fire drills are vital preparation for emergencies. In fact, fire drills might bring back memories of school where they were a welcome break from classes that gave you an opportunity to laugh with friends. (Although they weren’t mandatory at puppy kindergarten or dog obedience school, I always love an excuse to take a biscuit-break,) In an office setting, properly executed fire drills can save lives.
Why do you need fire drills in your building?
- Tenants enter and exit buildings through the same locations every day. In fire drills, people move through seldom used routes such as back stairwells. Workers are creatures of habit who, just like pooches, benefit from frequent drills, which make them more likely to remember proper evacuation routes.
- Several building codes mandate fire drill participation such as the NFPA’s Life Safety Code, which features a grid detailing the recommended frequency for and the types of businesses that should conduct drills. Building owners can always choose to run more than the code-mandated number of drills to ensure that new tenants understand evacuation procedures. The guys at the station like to think they have trained me with drills, but it’s really the other way around.
- Drills provide a great opportunity to discover safety issues that need to be corrected such as locked stairwell doors or the necessity of developing alternate routes for specific tenants.
A fire at an office building in 1989 in Atlanta caused the deaths of five workers. Through investigation, the U.S. Fire Administration determined that federal employees who worked in the building were required to participate in fire drills, while most private sector employees were not. The fatalities and most of the injured were, unfortunately, among the private sector tenants. What’s more, the report indicated a high level of chaos among the private sector employees. Fire drills were identified as a contributing factor for saving lives.
Tips for performing fire drills:
- Ensure that the sound of alarm systems can reach all sections of the building including storage areas, maintenance rooms, restrooms and elevators. Instruct Floor Wardens and other designated safety volunteers to keep watch for any problems observed during the drill, such as employees who don’t exit the building immediately or who take non-approved exit routes.
- Remind tenants to exit the building briskly and to leave behind unnecessary personal items, computers or any office paperwork that might hinder evacuation. Make sure they bring Fido, in case a fire breaks out on “Bring Your Dog to Work Day.”
- Before drills begin, ensure that all exit signs are clearly visible and meet all code requirements.
- Involve local fire departments to coordinate their mock drills, so you can work together to speed up evacuation times.
With all types of safety exercises, it’s important to receive training from a qualified source. This short video shows you what happens when you mix fire safety training with an unqualified “trainer.” Wow. This guy should not be allowed near anything flammable ever again.
Visit us again next week for the second blog post in our series about fire safety and prevention. We will be discussing flammable materials and how building owners can mitigate fire risks by making sound choices in building materials and furnishings. I wanted to do a post that debated the merits of both wet and dry food, but my editor shot it down.
When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.