Getting the best out of fire evacuation drills
Too often, fire evacuation drills are carried out without sufficient planning and organisation. In this article I’ve tried to highlight some of the difficulties which may arise when planning effective fire drills and give some advice on how they can be overcome.
The main reason for a fire drill is often the statutory requirement to do so, but the benefits to you should not be underestimated. The objectives of fire drills are to familiarise you and your staff with the procedures to be followed in the event of fire and to test those procedures.
Organising The Fire Drill
General guidelines regarding the organising of a fire evacuation drill are readily available, but each pub has its own individual staff, procedures, building layout etc, and as a result it’s necessary to tailor general guidelines to best meet the requirements of your pub.
Even the best planned scheme will fail to fully achieve its objectives unless it is implemented by suitably trained and well-motivated staff.
The chief organiser on the ground (you) is usually called the fire marshal and his or her departmental assistants in the evacuation exercise, fire wardens, but other names may be used.
In order to secure the full co-operation your staff the fire marshal should be a person recognised as having managerial “clout” or authority, to be fair most publicans have this ‘gravitas’.
In many pubs the role of fire marshal is a minor part of a publican’s working life, as fires are relatively uncommon and it is understandable why some simply switch off when planning the drill and during the post-drill discussion meeting with staff.
Preparing The Ground
It needn’t involve too much in terms of time or endeavour. Whilst one wouldn’t ordinarily give notice of a fire drill, if you are considering holding a fire drill during opening hours (which you should do from time to time) let your senior staff know, on a confidential basis, there will be a fire drill.
You should note any inferred or displayed lack of interest by you is contagious and adversely influences the attitudes of the staff in their involvement with the fire evacuation drill.
If you fully understand the economic and social aspects of fire evacuation drills, you will always be positive when discussing the topic with others. For instance the cost to not only you if the pub suffers a fire but also the likely implication for them of maybe being laid off or the emotional upset a real fire can cause to those involved. The attitude should be an acceptance that training the staff in a fire evacuation drill is a job which must be done, and if it must be done then it is worth doing well.
Modifying The Fire Drill
In the light of the experience gained by implementing successive fire evacuation drills you may, at various stages, modify the basic drill to cater for changes in the building’s layout, new cooking processes, new or seasonal staff or theoretical position of the fire zone.
Obviously any change in the basic fire evacuation drill is only justified if it results in an improved fire evacuation performance, as granny said “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it”.
The ‘Cost-Time’ Equation
The cost of a fire evacuation drill can vary appreciably even within the same pub, and according to the time it takes place. If a fire evacuation drill with pre-warning is held in the middle of a normal trading period it will involve a ‘winding down’ during the anticipatory period of time during which productive work levels may well fall, a stoppage of normal work during the actual drill period, followed by a possible longer than normal ‘winding up’ period to the more usual service levels.
If the drill is held in a period immediately ahead of a natural break period, afternoon closing, for instance, then there is no longer an extra ‘winding down’ or ‘winding up’ period to be included in the costing of the drill. The staff involved may find that they can enjoy a slightly longer rest period by some 5 minutes or so, but the company or firm benefits from a far greater saving.