Improving Your Business Fire Evacuation Plan

A fire evacuation plan should be at the centre of health and safety regulations for any business. The consequences that fire can have on a business are severe and long-lasting, so make sure you have all the required procedures to handle any adverse effects from the event of a fire. The best way to ensure this is to have a high-quality fire evacuation plan in place, and our guide will take you through the seven essential steps you should consider. 

Why is having a fire evacuation plan important?

Processes and procedures that safeguard staff require clear, simplistic instructions, as in the event of a fire, panic can ensue. Every employee should know what protocol to take immediately, and a fire evacuation plan is a framework that everybody can be guided by. 

Although major outbreaks of fire in offices and commercial premises is rare, that doesn’t mean you can be complacent. Every eventuality must be carefully considered and implemented within your plan. Without an efficient plan for staff to adhere to, there is a far greater risk of injury or even loss of life in extreme cases. 

Common causes of workplace fires

On average, the UK has 22,000 workplace fires per year. This figure may seem a lot, but many of these are minor incidents, and there are common causes that can be attributed to these. Many are caused by faulty equipment, electrical faults or misuse of appliances. If you don’t already, consider having regular PAT testing services carried out on all appliances to help minimise the risk of fire and improve overall fire safety. It is also important to carry out fire extinguisher testing services, along with fixed wire testing services, ensuring there are no fire hazards and your fire safety equipment is working optimally.

Steps How to Create a Fire Evacuation Plan:

Whether you require an overhaul of your existing procedure or you need to implement a new evacuation plan, you should always consider multiple steps in your strategy. The evacuation plan will be guided by the results of your fire risk assessment. There are certain steps that must be implemented within every fire evacuation plan, and depending on the size of your business will determine the level of evacuation plan in place. Smaller businesses may have what is known as a General Fire Evacuation plan

Businesses with a larger number of employees tend to have an extensive Fire Evacuation plan with detailed instructions for all staff on where to be and what to do in the event of a fire. There are various strategies that you will need to follow and consider. Below, we will take you through all the things you should consider and include when writing your fire evacuation procedure. 

     1. Consider all eventualities

Firstly, you must assess and examine everything within your workplace and what the potential risks are. Take a walk through the premises, and highlight any instances, situations or environments where a fire could take place. Are there hazards present? Do you have a communal kitchen with appliances that could potentially be flammable? Is there equipment in the office or premises present that may pose a risk? 

Making a note of each risk and scenario by asking the question of ‘what if’ against every possible risk or hazard will help you form the basis of your fire evacuation procedure. 

     2. Consider all eventualities

A fire evacuation plan is only as useful as its execution. Having designated fire wardens and staff trained in fire safety is a core part of having a successful plan in place. Communicate this information on signs and notices throughout the workplace so that all staff members are aware. 

There are several roles that need to be delegated as part of your evacuation plan. A chief fire warden or fire wardens should be assigned. Depending on the size of your business may determine if you need one or several fire wardens. If you have a large organisation, it is worthwhile to assign a member of staff for each team within the business to be the designated fire warden. 

All members of staff that are designated wardens or fire marshalls within your organisation should be appropriately briefed and trained. Staff will look for collective action in the event of a fire. Therefore, having people who can carry out the functions safely and efficiently is required. 

Wardens and marshals should know how to carry out the following duties as part of their responsibilities: 

  • Fire routine and evacuation drill procedure.
  • Ensuring staff know the location of fire alarm points.
  • Ensuring regular use of primary and secondary escape routes.
  • Close-down procedure.
  • Procedure for nominated staff to assist employees and members of the public to the nearest exits.

      3. Determine all fire escape routes and exits

A fire evacuation plan needs to have clear, concise instructions that clearly communicate and inform staff of all necessary procedures. All escape routes and exits should be marked clearly with appropriate signage so that staff are aware of exactly where they need to be. 

Circulate email communication to staff with any updates and diagrams of exactly what should be adhered to. Make sure that diagrams or evacuation maps with the correct information are clearly labelled and visible across the workplace. You will also need to consider a separate evacuation route and system for disabled users. 

There should be a clear designated area on the exterior of the building where staff members can congregate and be accounted for. Each exit should be checked and monitored to ensure a smooth evacuation and limit any overcrowding. Once every person is outside, it is the responsibility of the fire warden or fire wardens to legislate for all staff members. 

     4. What type of evacuation is needed?

For most buildings, the fire evacuation procedure will be the same. A fire alarm or siren will sound, and staff will know where to exit the building via the various fire routes or exits displayed. This is known as a simultaneous evacuation. 

For larger premises like office blocks, hospitals, and care homes, you need a vertical or horizontal evacuation as part of your plan. This is carried out by evacuating those who are most at risk or located near the fire. For example, during a vertical evacuation, the floor where the fire is located and the floor above will be the first to be evacuated. Then, the rest of the building can be evacuated, as people located further away are at lesser risk. 

For hospitals and care homes, horizontal-phased evacuations are more common, as this allows residents or patients to be transferred to fire-resisting compartments within the premises.

      5. Conduct regular fire drills

Regular fire drills should be conducted on a frequent basis. Devise a schedule that incorporates a dummy fire drill roughly every three months so that staff members are aware of what is required and expected if a real fire does occur. Familiarity means that there is less risk for staff in the event of a fire. The evacuation plan should be prompt and efficient, so carrying out regular drills will help the procedure to be as smooth as possible. 

    6.  Ensure you have the appropriate fire equipment

It is crucial to have appropriate and working fire equipment, such as fire extinguishers, available for use even though your priority should be to evacuate. Equipment must be reviewed and tested to ensure it adheres to legal standards. This includes fire alarm systems, fire doors, fire signage, and emergency lighting. If any faults are discovered, they must be raised and addressed quickly. Staff members should be aware of where equipment is located, and fire wardens must be trained to use fire extinguishers if necessary.

   7. Review and report on your evacuation plan 

No plan is effective without regular reviews and tweaks to tighten up any gaps or improvements that are required within the strategy. On occasions, fire safety legislation can change, or there may be instances that occur where it is necessary for the plan to be amended. For example, work on the premises may mean a fire exit is out of use, and a temporary solution must be found. Government legislation states that all fire evacuation plans must contain the following criteria:  

  • a clear passageway to all escape routes
  • clearly marked escape routes that are as short and direct as possible
  • enough exits and routes for all people to escape
  • emergency doors that open easily.
  • emergency lighting where needed
  • training for all employees to know and use the escape routes
  • a safe meeting point for staff

Fire safety with UK Safety Management

A good fire evacuation plan needs to be reinforced by the findings of a thorough, professional fire risk assessment. At UK Safety Management, we have a team of specialist engineers on hand to carry out assessments and testing fire safety within your workplace. 

Contact us today to receive a free, no-obligation quote on any remedial works you require on your premises. Our friendly, professional team will always be available to assist you with any queries you may have. 

About UKSM

With a decade of experience in the electrical and fire safety sector, we have firmly established ourselves as a trusted name in the industry. Our commitment to excellence has allowed us to serve a diverse clientele, including landlords, architects, developers, consultants, local authorities, and housing associations, overseeing a staggering 85,000 sites.

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