Although we are in the middle of the winter season, it is still necessary to hold regular fire drills. This is not only for compliance with the fire code, but also to help all building occupants remain familiar with evacuation procedures. Fire drills develop and reinforce the efficient and safe use of the exit facilities available for emergencies. Conducted properly, fire drills allow occupants to practice an orderly exit in a controlled situation. Establishing a fire evacuation routine prevents the panic that has been responsible for much of the loss of life in major fires. From the standpoint of the fire department, order and control is the objective of a fire drill. While the speed at which occupants leave the building is the primary aim of the floor wardens in the building, it must always be balanced with safety and discipline. Fire drills must be carefully mapped out and, for the most part, can be “mocked up” to provide the sense of an emergency condition in the building. They can be held at different times of the day. Conducting evacuations via alternate exits and stairways, or creating “obstructions” to simulate fire or smoke, provides occupants with the opportunity to locate secondary exit routes. Fire drills must be designed to familiarize the occupants with all available means of exit, particularly emergency exits that are not normally used by occupants of the building. During fire drills, each floor warden and/or designate is responsible for monitoring the responses of their area occupants, observing progress after activation of the audible fire alarm signal and subsequently documenting the events of the particular drill.
For the most part, building management personnel prefer that all fire drills be pre-planned and pre-announced. “Surprise drills” tend to limit productive learning, breed apprehension, and encourage passive reactions to future alarms. Naturally, any fire alarm not preceded by plan or announcement should be treated as an actual fire condition. Fire evacuation drills are normally conducted according to the type of building occupancy, as specified in the fire code and in cooperation with the authority having jurisdiction. Most importantly, fire drills should include a complete set of procedures that ensure participation by all occupants in the building. A fire drill must not be considered to be a routine exercise from which some occupants may excuse themselves and, in such cases, fire wardens are to record non-participants. Responsibility for the planning and conducting of the fire drills normally resides with the building operator or risk management supervisor, who are qualified through fire warden training. A written log of all conducted drills must be maintained, including a critique of the exercise. Records are to be kept at one central location along with the approved fire safety plan. Ultimately, the landlord and/or their management agent are responsible for the safety of the occupants in the building, and ensuring that the fire drills are conducted as outlined in the approved fire safety plan.
The provisions for the safe evacuation of persons requiring assistance must be discussed and in place prior to conducting the fire drill. These procedures are based on the physical and human resources of each building, and must be included in the approved fire safety plan. During an evacuation, it may be necessary to stage persons needing assistance in areas of refuge where they can await further help. All procedures specific to the building occupants must be discussed with the local City Fire Services prior to implementation.
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.