8 Tips on How to Create a Fire Evacuation Plan for Your Business
September 1, 2022
You need a fire escape plan for business in your company. The right fire escape plan gives everyone a chance to get out, and fire safety plans are often insurance and government requirements. If you need professional assistance with this, don’t worry because fire safety engineering consultants are available.
What Is a Fire Escape Plan?
A fire safety plan for business usually involves three elements. The first part of a fire safety plan involves identifying potential hazards that might start a fire. The second part is a building evacuation plan so everyone knows how and when to get out. The third part is having some means of communication among the evacuees.
Steps to Take to Establish a Fire Evacuation Plan for Your Business
Knowing how to draw a fire escape plan is a great step, but your emergency evacuation plan needs to be more comprehensive than that.
1. Determine Possible Fire Hazards
Your fire evacuation plan should start with identifying potential fire hazards. These can be anything from power strips to kitchens and microwaves in break rooms. Do you have employees running mini-fridges, fans, or personal heaters at their cubicles or desks? You might have to forbid certain personal items from being used in your business, no matter how much your personnel might love being able to use them. Kitchens for break areas are common demands of modern employees, but you can't risk fire hazards by going too far.
2. Determine Responsibilities and Roles
How does an emergency action plan benefit your workplace? Your fire escape plan means that employees will have someone to look to for leadership. Coming up with a set system of organization with backups means there will be people who can guide everyone to safety. Your fire evacuation plan will have numerous roles that need to be designated and filled.
- Chief Fire Warden: This person has the overall responsibility for fire events. That includes plans and preparations before a fire. In an actual event, they make sure doors are closed, bathrooms are checked, and a headcount happens at the safe place.
- Assistant Fire Warden: This employee utilizes a mass alert system to make sure everyone knows there is a fire. They'll also contact the fire department.
- Route Guides: These individuals make sure routes remain clear for a calm and orderly evacuation.
- Floor Monitors: These will be the last people out once they ensure an area is clear. They make sure everyone in their assigned area is evacuated and then report to the chief fire warden.
3. Identify the Nearest Exits and Escape Routes
Part of knowing how to create an evacuation plan is identifying escape routes to the nearest exits. This should involve both primary and secondary routes of potential escape. Every exit route and the actual escapes should be marked with clear signs. Keep these routes free of furniture or other objects that might impede anyone trying to evacuate.
Larger offices or facilities should make more than one map of their floor plans. These diagrams need to be posted so employees can see their evacuation routes. Best practices include the development of different evacuation plans for disabled individuals who might need more assistance.
Once everyone is outside, where should they assemble? A safe gathering point needs to be designated. Your assistant fire warden should be at that assembly point doing a headcount and offering updates. Make sure that escape routes and your assembly area can deal with how many employees are likely to be evacuating.
There are templates you can find and use to start these plans, but you also need to make sure that they are customized for your circumstances, business, and layout.
4. Make a Plan for Communication
Your fire egress plan has to have a communication plan involved. Communication is crucial when a fire happens if you want to prevent injuries and fatalities. You need a detailed plan that includes employee communication during a fire event. You also need to list crucial contact information for potential emergency responders and those that rely on your business. That information should be easily accessible and something employees can take with them during egress.
Your communication list shouldn't just be firemen, police, and local hospitals. You need to include clients, distributors, and suppliers. Everyone needs to stay informed about what's going on.
You might need an alternate office for a communication liaison if your primary office is impacted by an actual fire or the threat of it. Make sure you train at least one backup if the crisis communication lead is unavailable.
Keep in mind that if a fire occurs, your normal communication channels might not be available. Building occupants should have other methods of communication so your messages get through. Doing this through everyone's personal phones might work, but you need to be prepared for a manual head count if anyone doesn't get out with their phone.
5. Know What Your Tools Are and Have them Inspected
- Fire doors
- Bullhorn, megaphone, or traffic controller wand
- Escape ladders
Fire extinguishers should be placed in many locations. Reusable ones need to be filled every 10 years. Disposable fire extinguishers should be replaced every 12 years. All emergency equipment should be kept current and operable with regular inspections to verify their condition and readiness. Employees should know where these items are and also how to use them.
6. Map Things Out
Your escape plan for fire events needs to be mapped out. Basic line drawings of your building layout should clearly mark crucial features.
- Layout of the Building: This needs to show both your building interior and the outdoor surroundings.
- Compass: Put a four-pointed compass on the top of your map to orient readers quickly.
- Current Location: A big red dot should be labeled "You Are Here".
- Fire Alarms/Extinguishers: Mark these locations with appropriate icons and labels.
- First-Aid Resources: Mark these with a cross in blue color and label them. Also, designate locations of emergency showers, eyewash stations, and other safety resources people might require.
- Fire Exits: These doors should always be accessible and open without needing a key for degrees. Bright colors are good for highlighting them as an "Exit". Mark paths to the closest existing with lines of green arrows.
- Emergency Assembly: This is the safe place where evacuees should get together away from the building and any explosive or flammable materials. This area should be marked using a red circle and an "Emergency Assembly" label.
7. Schedule Fire Evacuation Procedure Rehearsals
Fire evacuation instructions are good, but emergency exit training is even better. Do you have kids enrolled in public schooling? If so, then you know they probably do fire drills regularly. They might even do it every month.
Doing routine rehearsals will minimize confusion and help those involved turn instructions into a memory they can rely on. In the event of an actual emergency, they will be less likely to panic because they know what to do. This makes it more likely that a safe outcome happens because everyone knows what to do.
It's not complicated. Repetition is what helps here. Adults can learn this way, too. Fires can move fast, so just a few seconds make all the difference. An employee who goes through enough fire drills will develop muscle memory that kicks in automatically so they don't waste time figuring out how to get out.
Your fire evacuation team should meet every quarter so they can plan regular rehearsals and make sure that everyone and everything is prepared for a fire event or other emergency and that your business is prepared.
8. Following Up
Your workplace fire safety plan is something that you need to follow up on. When a fire happens, tensions are going to be high. Panic is likely to happen throughout your office or facility.
Practicing fire evacuation plans can be hard to pull off because it means stopping all your business operations for those times. However, the more often you do these practices, the better things will go in the event of an actual fire. You can also practice more than evacuating everyone, as it's a chance to also practice emergency communications.
You'll need to account for those who are in the office that day so you know you got them all out safely. However, you'll also need to account for those who weren't in the office. Maybe it's someone's day off, they're on vacation, they called out sick, or they're just out to lunch. They might be safe but have no idea there's a problem. Fire responders that show up will need to know if anyone is still in the building.
Employee Fire Evacuation Tips
Your fire exit plans will work a lot better when your employees have the right fire evacuation tips. Let them know about these.
Stay Close to Ground Level
Your business evacuation plan should train employees to stay low to the ground. Smoke rises, so they'll breathe and see easier near the floor.
Test All Door Handles
Another aspect of your business fire escape plan should be getting people to test door handles before opening them. Hot handles might indicate a fire in the next room.
Head for the Closest Fire Escape, Stairwell, or Exit
Any fire evacuation plan for business should involve the shortest route out of the building or facility to save time and get people out quickly.
Various Fire Evacuation Factors to Consider
Your fire evacuation planning might have to factor in various factors.
Distinct Work Circumstances
Your office or facility might have unique circumstances that you should accommodate in your fire plans.
- Involve temps, contractors, and even clients in your planning. Remote workers might not be impacted directly by a fire, but you need to keep them apprised of what's going on with their employer and colleagues.
- Make plans for those with special needs. Anyone who is disabled, permanently or temporarily, or has special needs might need help evacuating safely.
- Flesh out procedures for any employees that stick around to turn off crucial equipment, handle fire extinguishers, or handle other essential services. Have stringent rules in place about when they should abandon the facility to keep everyone safe.
Protecting Your Assets
When developing building evacuation maps, consider asset protection along with the safety of all people involved.
- Think about storing critical items in a fire-proof safe or room.
- Protect sensitive data with redundant storage that is cloud-based.
An alarm plan for evacuation can shave seconds off of response time to get everyone out. Identify your escape routes, put the right emergency supplies in place, and designate essential roles within your team for a coordinated effort to get everyone to safety if the worst ever happens.
However, creating a plan on your own can still leave holes and issues that you may not even notice. The best choice is to turn to fire safety engineering specialists who can ensure a comprehensive and expert plan to keep everyone safe. Contact us today!
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