While facility managers are unable to foresee every event that will require the tenants/occupants of their building to evacuate, the development of a well-written fire safety plan will help them to prepare for a variety of scenarios. Although a fire safety plan that is implemented properly can mean the difference between organized escape and panic, much of the responsibility still lies with the local fire department to ensure the safety of occupants. Despite false alarms due to building activities and equipment failure, management may still question the value of providing funds for evacuation planning and emergency training. For this reason, there are specific requirements under the Fire Code to ensure that the building tenants/occupants are regularly made aware of the evacuation procedures as outlined in the each building’s approved fire safety plan. Once the fire safety plan has been approved by the local fire department, the training methods for fire wardens and supervisory staff are to be implemented as prescribed in the plan. The primary role of floor wardens is to conduct the evacuation of occupants from their floor during a fire alarm. Quick action, clear thinking and calm leadership are vital to ensuring the safety of occupants during an emergency. Upon activation of the fire alarm, floor wardens should quickly tour the floor and alert all occupants that a fire alarm has sounded and an evacuation is required. Particular attention should be paid to isolated offices and individuals who may be deaf or hard-of-hearing. An assertive manner and authoritative voice will help motivate those who are hesitant about evacuating. Instruct occupants to use the designated exit stairwells and not the elevators to evacuate the floor.
While checking the floor and alerting occupants, the floor warden should also close the doors to all rooms once they have been vacated. This helps prevent the spread of fire, as well as limiting the migration of smoke and toxic gases. As tenants/occupants leave each floor, the floor wardens should remind them to use the right side of the stairwell and to head for their designated meeting place. It is also a good idea to remind people not to enter a floor where an alarm is sounding, and to remain at the meeting place until notified. Persons remaining on the floor or in the stairwell should be reported to the building’s Fire Safety Director as soon as possible. The Fire Safety Director will ensure that firefighters are sent to assist those in need if a full evacuation is required. Two persons (and alternates) should be assigned to each individual whose limited mobility would prevent them from evacuating by way of the exit stairwells. This must be done long before a fire emergency so that all three persons become familiar with the necessary course of action. Although the logistics of certain facilities make tenant/occupant training difficult, key staff members should be the able to complete the training, making their knowledge and guidance essential during an evacuation. Without extensive planning, conducting a full building evacuation drill for a large facility can prove very disruptive and disorganized. In most cases, partial evacuation drills will promote the required level of awareness. However, a facility operator must still follow the fire department’s approved fire drill procedures as specified in their building’s fire safety plan. Conducting fire drills will always trigger a variety of emotions for tenants/occupants. This makes it even more important for the facility operator to ensure that the building’s fire alarm and/or notification systems are without malfunctioning audibility or other failure issues.
This article was contributed by Firepoint Inc, serving the GTA since 1997, developing fire department approved fire safety plans for newly constructed and existing buildings. Although every effort is made to ensure the accuracy, currency and completeness of the information, the bulletin publishers and authors do not guarantee, warrant, represent or undertake that the information provided is correct, accurate or current and shall not be liable for any loss, claim, or demand arising directly or indirectly from any use or reliance upon the bulletin information. Bulletin reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited without the written consent of Firepoint Inc. Copyright 2021 – All Rights Reserved. See www.firepoint.ca or call 905-874-9400.