Secondary Benefits of a Fire Drill
Though it is widely recognised that the primary object of a fire evacuation drill is to allow the staff to gain further practice in travelling along recommended fire escape routes at a reasonable pace there is a tendency to overlook many secondary factors:
- Using the occasion to improve the fire safety awareness of the staff
- Giving the staff an opportunity to recognise the sound of the fire alarm, and the various stages of fire evacuation preparedness that the varying sounds of the signalling device may indicate, e.g. an intermittent sound may mean a fire alert, whereas a continuous tone may mean an immediate fire evacuation
- Giving you an opportunity to test how readily it can determine the identity of missing members of staff and their last known location
- Giving the ‘first responders’ an opportunity to practise a quick location of the area of the ‘theoretical’ fire and a fast response to the fire zone suitably armed with fire-fighting equipment
- Giving designated staff members an opportunity to practise calling the fire brigade on a pre-warning ‘dummy run’ basis, giving the ‘searchers’ or licensees practice in ensuring that all staff, other than those with designated fire safety jobs, have left the theoretical fire zone
- This also allows you to measure and compare the actual fire evacuation time with the optimum fire evacuation time, and the location of possible bottlenecks.
Section Based Drills
If you run a particularly large pub, say, with a separate restaurant or function room, with proper planning there is no reason why the drill cannot be carried out in an area or section basis rather than involving the evacuation of the complete premises or complex.
This may throw a greater work load onto your organisational ability but it allows a greater insight into problems which may arise on a local level during a fire evacuation.
For a section evacuation it is obviously not advisable to use a fire alarm which can be heard over the whole pub. This problem can be surmounted by tape-recording the sound of the various stages of the fire alarm bell or horn and replaying it at a suitable sound level within the evacuation area.
For instance I have run pubs with particularly cramped kitchens, and being major cause of pub fires, your kitchen staff might need extra fire training and a separate fire drill. Similarly one very large London pub I ran had a deep subterranean beer cellar approached by no less than three flights of stairs, so on occasion I would drill the bar staff who might use this area separately.
If you have accommodation for paying guests you might also consider separate fire drills for staff you service rooms or are otherwise likely to be in that part of the building in the event of a fire.
Disabled Employees & customers
In the case of a disabled employee there is no reason why the fire evacuation drill cannot be done on a person-to-person basis without the use of the normal fire alarm and without any fanfare of publicity. This is a form of ‘positive discrimination’, however, one should also make sure they are fully aware of the fire safety procedures their more abled colleagues follow.
It should always be kept in mind that a fire evacuation drill is simply that and no more… a drill. Not to labour the point, but the purpose of the drill is to allow the staff to gain further experience in using recommended fire escape routes.
Physically disabled employees/customers are generally extremely independent and usually prefer to receive no assistance or as little assistance as possible from others. Their independence should be recognised but steps should be taken in advance of the sounding of the fire alarm in pre-planned drills to have the disabled person’s designated route lead them to positions where their relatively slow walking rate is unlikely to result in bottle-necks.
In an actual fire it is quite likely that one or more people might grab the disabled person and (wo)manhandle him or her out of danger – and be thanked for it.