How to Conduct a Fire Drill in the Workplace

Fire drills are important to conduct within organisations. For staff and patrons, they can be a life-saving measure during fire emergencies.

In every workplace, it is important to establish actionable procedures to be carried out in the event of fire hazards and emergencies. With the guidance of fire safety experts, and an appointed fire warden, employers can ensure that they have an effective fire drill practice in place, for new and existing staff to undergo, in compliance with fire safety regulations, and an organisation’s legal duty of care.

For those who may be inexperienced in developing or conducting an effective fire drill for a team of people to follow, you may feel confused about how and where to start. In this article, we provide seven general and easy-to-follow steps on how to prepare and conduct a fire drill in the workplace.

1. Ensure the building is fitted with fire-rated doors and smoke alarms

Fire safety begins with your surroundings. Prior to establishing a fire drill, it’s important to ensure that the building is equipped with the appropriate fire-safe materials, including a fire-rated door. Here at Fire Safe Doors, we are experts at building fire-rated doors that are stringently tested to withstand flames for a specific period of time, depending on the Fire Resistance Level (FRL) applied to the door. Put simply, Fire Resistance Levels measure structure, integrity and insulation. 

Additionally, make sure the building has correctly-fitted and functioning smoke alarms, which are tested once a month. One of the most important ways to ensure their effectiveness is to install them in the right locations. For example, one crucial location would be within 3 metres of a cooking appliance, as a large number of fires begin in kitchens. On the other hand, a location to avoid is near windows, as drafts can cause them to go off without warrant.

2. Set clear objectives for the fire drill and convey them to staff

Prior to conducting a fire drill, it is important to set the right goals and have a clear purpose in mind to convey to staff. For example, is one of your goals to reduce the amount of time it takes for all personnel to safely evacuate the building? In general, the duration of most fire drills is five to 15 minutes.  If a work environment contains serious fire hazards, then fire drills are recommended to conduct once every three months. For less-hazardous workplaces, one fire drill every six months is the recommended interval.

3. Seek training and advice from fire safety experts

When developing a fire evacuation plan, it is crucial to consult fire safety experts who can review, adjust and approve your procedures. For example, you can reach out to ComSafe Training Services, which is a commercial sector of Fire and Rescue NSW. They are also a registered training organisation (RTO91235) that can aid your team in the development and deployment of a fire drill.

For starters, ensuring you have a floor plan drawn up of the workplace building As a general guide, Draw a floor plan of your home, including two ways of escape from each room. Plan an escape route and ensure everyone knows how to get out.

4. Follow the right steps when developing a fire drill

As a starting point, it is imperative to have a floor plan of the workplace building drawn up. This can be a great way to visualise and mark escape routes, as you map out the evacuation journey. Next, ensure that fire exit doors are not blocked by any objects such as furniture, or other potentially heavy items that may be difficult to move out of the way in the event of an emergency. As advised by Fire and Rescue NSW, keeping window and door keys next to locks can be crucial, should a fire evacuation be necessary.

At the onset of a fire emergency, it is important to act immediately. Don’t delay taking action. Ensure you set a designated assembly area, evacuation route, and designated meeting point outside of the building. Once staff left the building, do not go back inside, until you receive confirmation from fire safety experts, such as firefighters, that all hazards have been mitigated. And, of course, dial ‘000’ for emergency assistance. It is important employers and managers to relay all of this information to their team members, so that everyone is aware of these general safety steps.

5. Appoint a fire warden

In the workplace, designated fire wardens play an integral role in the assistance, implementation and improvement of fire drills, and other relevant safety procedures. In the event of a fire evacuation practice, their primary responsibilities are to lead the fire drill, possess sound knowledge of the building’s fire exits and escape routes, ensure all personnel are accounted for, assist/instruct employees throughout the procedure, and ensure that obstructions are eliminated for staff members with special requirements, such as wheelchair access.

6. Set the right expectations

When there is no imminent danger, fire drills may not be taken seriously by staff members. However, if an actual fire emergency was to occur, this attitude would not be helpful. Therefore, as a team leader, it is important to communicate the importance and seriousness of the fire safety practice, and the necessity of its existence, to ensure that staff remain attentive during the experience, and gain the knowledge required to protect themselves and their colleagues.

7. Action the fire drill

Before the fire drill commences, request the fire warden, and any other personnel with delegated duties, to go to their designated positions and observation points in the building. Once the fire alarm is set off and the drill commences, the appointed warden should carefully monitor the execution of the drill, so as to identify any procedural bottlenecks, inefficiencies or hazardous practices that may arise. Lastly, ensure that the fire drill is timed by a designated team member, so as to ensure the entire process occurs within a safe and appropriate time frame.

Have a fire door related enquiry? We’re happy to help. Contact Fire Safe Doors at [email protected] or call (02) 9070 0732, and we’ll work through a plan for your needs. 

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