Fire Safety at Work: Developing an Evacuation Plan
As a CEO or office manager, the personal safety of your employees should be a top priority. This includes developing an emergency action plan to ensure fire safety at work. Approximately 80,000 workplace fires happen every year in the United States alone, leading to 200 worker fatalities and 5,000 serious injuries. In addition to loss of life and employee injury, your business can also face substantial property damage and financial setbacks.
That’s why office fire safety is of the utmost importance. You’re probably familiar with basic fire safety tips to follow in the workplace, and no doubt your office building has fire safety tools in place, like a sprinkler system, strategically-placed fire extinguishers, and perhaps even a top-of-the-line fire safety system from ACS Electronics. But you should also develop and implement an evacuation plan to ensure your employees’ safety at work.
Developing a Fire Safety Evacuation Plan for Your Workplace
Appoint a Crisis Management Team
To ensure fire safety and successful implementation of your evacuation plan, you should appoint a crisis management team that will oversee all fire safety drills and procedures. Select trustworthy, organized employees who take fire safety seriously. We recommend choosing an HR department member as well as a representative from each department or floor of your building who can serve as a point of reference for their peers during fire safety drills and actual emergencies.
Not only will the crisis management team run drills and post fire safety procedures around the office — they will also take headcounts and ensure the personal safety of other employees during real evacuations. Each crisis management team member should be assigned an area during fire safety evacuations. They will lead the employees in that area to safety during an evacuation by ensuring that escape routes are safe and smoke-free, or finding alternate routes as needed. Thus, all crisis team members should be level-headed individuals that can successfully carry out the fire safety evacuation plan.
Plot & Post Fire Escape Routes
Consult your building manager and local fire department when taking the next step in your fire safety evacuation plan — planning escape routes. Each floor of your building needs two clearly-defined, unblocked fire escape routes that do not include use of elevators. Be sure to consider all possibilities when plotting escape routes, such as lost electricity, blocked staircases, and collapsed rooms. Also account for any employees with disabilities.
When your routes are established, bring your crisis team in to show them each fire safety route. Create multiple posters illustrating each route, then have your team post them in multiple high-traffic locations on each floor. Inform your employees where the posters are located.
Establish Your Meeting Point
Your fire safety evacuation plan must also include a designated rendezvous point for employees to gather and crisis team members to take headcounts. Make sure that your meeting place is a safe distance from your office building and that you leave room for firefighters and law enforcement to access the premises. You should establish a primary meeting place that is closer to your building and a secondary one more than a block away in case there is an emergency affecting your entire area and not just your building.
Communicating With First Responders
Be sure that your fire safety evacuation plan also specifies how the crisis management team will collect information and share it with the first responders. You can appoint a head of the team to get information from each member — specifically a list of any missing employees from their area, plus which floor they were last seen on or should have been on — and then the team leader can share that with first responders. Your crisis management team leader will serve as the primary contact with firefighters and law enforcement, providing updates on the situation and announcing when there is an all-clear to enter.
Carry Out Fire Safety & Evacuation Plan Drills
When you’ve developed your fire safety evacuation plan, you need to practice it regularly by completing mandatory drills. Most businesses are required to hold fire safety evacuation drills once per year, but we recommend doing so twice: one in the fall and one in the spring, when weather is milder. Practicing your fire safety evacuation plan doe