It might be hard to imagine that there could be a fire in your building if your business consists largely of desks, laptop computers and potted plants. But fire can happen even here. In a manufacturing environment certain processes and materials make fire a more probable occurrence. Either way, fire drills are a lifesaving routine for your business to establish.
Who is responsible for safety in your business? If you answer “everyone,” you are correct, but only partly so. Yes, every employee in your business is responsible for engaging in safe behaviors. But who makes sure that prevention activities and other safety measures (like regular fire drills) happen on a regular basis? It might benefit your business to establish a safety committee to assess and oversee activities that prevent injury or even loss of life. OSHA doesn’t require your business to conduct fire drills, but your insurance company might.
During stressful situations people react automatically – this means that you want every employee to have fire procedures so ingrained that they immediately respond with them.
- Establish an evacuation plan, and post it in conspicuous locations around the facility.
- Establish a communication plan.
- Notify the fire department ahead of time with the schedule for the drill.
- Practice the building evacuation regularly – with more frequency for the first few weeks (2-week intervals) after the procedure has been established, then back off to monthly.
- Decide whether you want the drill to be announced or unannounced. Your staff would probably prefer to have a heads up about the drill, but you won’t be able to ascertain real emergency behavior unless the drill is unannounced.
- Consider incentives for full participation in the drills. You won’t experience the full benefit of the practice of a majority of employees waits them out.
- Do a debrief after the drill to discuss participation level, compliance with the prescribed safety procedures, the ability of staff members to fulfill their safety roles, etc. Did you discover that stairwells were partially blocked, or that there were physical obstructions on the production floor?
One other note about fire drill frequency: you don’t want to do it so often that employees take it for granted or stop participating