You're probably familiar with the old adage: 'Practice makes Perfect', but when it comes to fire drill procedures, not only does practice make perfect, it can also save lives. Fire drills are essential to preventing injury or loss of life to the occupants of your building.
Research has shown that the act of practicing or enacting a potential situation lessens people's fears and gives them more confidence in the event of an actual emergency. It was reported that during the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers - unquestionably one of the most catastrophic building fires in recent history - people who had previously participated in fire drills, or had experience in evacuating a building, emerged safely from the fire and also led many other people to safety.
Because fear of the unknown can be paralyzing, rehearsing and preparing for a potentially life threatening situation helps alleviate people's fears. But, for property managers and building owners, fire drills are also an inexpensive way to protect their property investment and prevent potential liability should any occupants be injured or killed in an actual fire.
As a landlord or property manager, it's helpful to know specific fire drill procedures (according to National and Provincial fire codes) for which you are responsible.
In this blog post, we'll cover the 'ins and outs' of fire drill procedures and provide answers to the most often-asked fire drill questions.
FIRE DRILL CRITERIA
As spelled out in the Ont. Fire Protection and Prevention Act, Subsection 18.104.22.168. the following types of buildings are required to carry out regularly scheduled fire drills:
- Assembly occupancy or care or detention occupancy
- Residential buildings, with more than 10 occupants
- Business and personal service buildings with more than 300 occupants
- Mercantile buildings with more than 300 occupants
- High hazard industrial buildings with more than 25 occupants
- Medium hazard industrial buildings with more than 100 occupants
- Low hazard industrial buildings with more than 300 occupants
Please refer to the Act for a comprehensive listing of building types that are required by law to conduct fire drills.
FIRE DRILL PROCEDURE FREQUENCY
For the types of buildings previously mentioned, a fire drill must be held at least once per year. However, owners of some specific types of buildings are required to conduct fire drills on a more frequent basis. As an example, day care and detention facilities must hold fire drills once per month for their supervisory staff. If you want to ensure that the frequency of your fire drills meets the criteria in the OFPP Act, refer to Fire Drill Frequency, Subsection 22.214.171.124.
STEP-BY-STEP FIRE DRILL PROCEDURES
As a property manager, owner or landlord, it's essential to know the specific procedures that must be taken before, during and after a fire drill.
BEFORE THE FIRE DRILL
Notify the occupants and post the notification in common areas 2 - 3 days in advance detailing the day and time the fire drill will take place, and make it clear to the occupants that they should NOT contact the fire department during the fire drill.
Call the monitoring company [in the event your building uses one] and advise them to ignore alarm or trouble signals from the building because a fire drill is being conducted.
Call the local Fire Department and advise them of the approximate time and duration of the fire drill. It's important to record the name of the person you spoke to at the Fire Department.
Meet with supervisory staff and designate responsibilities approx. 10 minutes prior to the drill. A specific staff member should be assigned to pull the manual alarm at the designated time.
Assign supervisory staff to cover specific floor areas and check exits prior to the fire drill. Five minutes prior to the start of the fire drill, designated supervisory staff must check exits on their assigned floors to ensure all fire doors are closed AND ensure all exits, means of exit and fire doors are clear of obstructions.
DURING THE FIRE DRILL
Activate the fire alarm at the designated time.
Follow alarm procedures, as spelled out in detail in your Fire Safety Plan, however supervisory staff will not dial 911.
Observe and note the responses of the occupants of your building with particular attention to any problems that were encountered and the time required to complete the evacuation.
AFTER THE FIRE DRILL
Once the fire drill procedure has been completed, it is an owner's or property manager's responsibility to assess the successes and deficiencies of the fire drill.
Assess the fire drill with respect to staff's knowledge of emergency procedures and performance, occupant's performance and knowledge of fire drill procedures and the subsequent training required to improve performance.
Notify the Fire Department that the fire alarm drill is complete and the alarm has been reset.
Conduct a de-briefing meeting with supervisory staff to discuss any noted deficiencies.
Remove the fire drill notices.
Complete and file a record of the fire alarm drill. Information pertaining to all aspects of the fire drill should be recorded in a fire drill form or contained in a fire drill logbook. Record of the drill should include the date and time of the drill, the name of the person conducting the drill, persons participating, the contacts notified at the fire department, any fire or life safety equipment deficiencies and any resulting training requirements. Record of the fire drill must be kept for at least 12 months following the drill.
To borrow from the Boy Scout motto, to 'Be Prepared' is to 'have thought out beforehand any accident or situation that might occur, so you know the right thing to do at the right moment'. Essentially, a fire drill is really all about preparedness. Testing to ensure that your staff are prepared and have the knowledge to respond safely in the event of a fire.