Creating an Evacuation Plan for Your Office

Workplace fires are a serious risk in every industry, and it’s naive to think that they’re just something you see on the news, happening to other people. As the person in charge of fire safety within your company, you’re responsible for ensuring that everyone knows how to escape in the event of a fire.

It’s a serious role which could save lives, and one that you need to give the utmost attention to. To give you some food for thought, we’ve put together a few guidelines on how you should be drawing up your office’s evacuation plan.

Picture Multiple Scenarios

Fires can start in a whole host of different ways, and as the fire marshal it’s your responsibility to raise each and every one of them with the senior management team. Picture each scenario by identifying all of the combustible materials, and listing all of the risks involved. This will allow you to make the necessary changes that will minimise the chances of a fire occurring in the first place.

With a detailed knowledge of all of the most likely sources of fire, you can then start planning for how to safely evacuate the rest of the team.

Define Roles and Delegate

It’s no use being a hero as all that will do is put you in danger, as well as everyone else in the office. People are relying on you to lead from the front, so you need to ensure that you have a clearly defined role.

Part of this process is accepting that it’s not safe for you to try and do everything yourself. You need to appoint assistant fire marshals and wardens who will be your eyes and ears in the event of a fire. There will be dozens of people who need your help and assistance, so you must put a clear structure in place well in advance.

Create a Communication Plan in the Event of a Fire

Designate someone in your team to disseminate information as quickly as possible. This should be a concise and precise speaker whom people will listen to. Don’t feel that it has to be you, just pick the best person for the job and then ensure they get the role-related training they need to save lives.

Communicating effectively in a fire situation is not a skill anyone will have practised before, so you should opt for someone who works well under pressure. If you’re going to get everyone outside safely, then you need to convey information as accurately and quickly as possible irrespective of what’s going on around you.

Map Out All of the Routes on Paper

Mapping out routes on paper is a great way to identify potential issues and limitations with your initial plan of action. If you want to be able to lead from the front, then you need to open yourself up to criticism and critical feedback.

Drawing up the escape routes and passing them around to the rest of the fire team is a great way to have the problem tackled from half a dozen different angles. The chances are that someone will spot something, or think of something that you haven’t. Once you’ve identified where you went wrong, you need to document the necessary corrective changes, and then pass around the new information.

Regularly Check Tools and Signage

Your office will be equipped with a number of tools and safety features that will save lives in the event of a fire, but they’re only as good as the people maintaining them. Whether you’re installing premium quality fire ducts from Thor Duct to help prevent the blaze from spreading, paying for a state-of-the-art fire detection system, or using a standard piece of electrical equipment, maintenance is absolutely key. Numerous fires are caused by faulty or outdated equipment that, if checked, could have been repaired or replaced.

Check the battery on torches, test emergency lighting, and keep all exit routes clear from clutter and rubbish.

Schedule Regular Fire Drills

Fire drills are an essential part of the evacuation process as they’re the only chance for the rest of the team to learn what they need to do should the worst happen. Create a schedule that you and the rest of the fire team stick to like clockwork.

It’s also important that you don’t announce some of the drills as drills until you get outside. You want to assess how every individual copes with the evacuation procedures in as realistic a test setting as possible. If you announce beforehand that it’s a drill and people finish texting before leaving their desks, then they haven’t gotten the most out of the exercise.

Debrief, Learn, and Repeat

The debrief is a vitally important step as it’s where you take stock and address any issues that have arisen. Take each one of them seriously as they will save lives.

Michael Deane is one of the editors of Qeedle, a small business magazine. When not blogging (or working), he can usually be spotted on the track, doing his laps, or with his nose deep in the latest John Grisham.

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