Having a fire safety plan and a state of the art fire alarm notification system will mean little if one doesn’t take the time to train building occupants on how to actually exit the building. The most common method of training is to conduct evacuation fire drills. Although it’s impossible to replicate the conditions of a real fire or chemical infiltration, fire drills allow occupants to learn how to safely relocate and use evacuation exit routes. The National Fire Code does list the required frequencies of fire drills in certain types of facilities. Even for buildings which are not regulated, organizations are recommended to conduct drills so occupants may exit the building. The logistics of certain facilities make occupant training difficult to undertake. In these situations, staff members may be the only ones able to go through training and drills, making their knowledge and guidance essential in an evacuation. Another component to a successful building evacuation is proper training of floor wardens as they are responsible for ensuring that everyone in their area is able to safely evacuate. Whether volunteers or appointees, fire wardens must undergo extensive, site-specific training and have knowledge of the building egress routes so that, in an emergency, they are aware of areas to avoid and employees that need extra assistance. They are also responsible for checking rooms and enclosed spaces to ensure that no one is left behind.
Increased awareness of evacuation issues in recent years has made some tenants and occupants more willing to learn and practice procedures, but building management needs to kick-start the process. Fundamental requirements, such as providing proper and reliable illumination in exit stairs, clearly marking the egress routes, providing a written fire plans to all occupants, and raising awareness of which actions are appropriate in an emergency are cornerstones of to reduce the risks of life. A successful building evacuation plan should also account for what happens once building occupants are outside the building. Assembly areas should be located at a safe distance from the building. Some fire experts, insist there’s at least one building between the tenants/occupants and the building they just evacuated. More importantly, one must consider the dangers lingering outside of the evacuation site which may include roads and highways. Serious injuries have occurred to occupants when they evacuated the potential danger of fire inside the building and were hit by passing vehicles outside the building. Once evacuees have arrived at the assembly area, a head count should be taken. Tracking visitors via a building sign-in sheet or more advanced recording system will allow you to account for everyone at the designated meeting place. Some software programs will allow you to access visitor information outside of the facility from a handheld wireless device. In the case of a sign-in sheet, train the individual at the front desk to bring that information with him/her in the event of an evacuation.
Ensuring that everyone in your facility is aware of the need to evacuate is a crucial part of a fire safety plan. It is therefore critical to consider the needs of all the occupants in the building, such as those individuals who may utilize wheelchairs regularly, or seemingly able-bodied occupants which may become immobile during an emergency evacuation due to unseen ailments such as heart conditions or asthma. Considering the needs of all these groups will lead to an effective evacuation and with an fully operational notification system with alerts all building occupants to an evacuation and gives them the tools needed to get out of the building safely.