Fire Wardens and Emergency Evacuation
What arrangements should I make to respond to an emergency and evacuate my premises?
Not surprisingly, the aim of any evacuation is to ensure that all occupants of a premises escape to a place of safety, using designated escape routes in a minimum amount of time. The emergency assembly point (there may be more than one) forms a focal point for a role call and liaison with emergency services. Such arrangements will form a prearranged plan which is rehearsed as part of regular fire drills, at minimum periods of six months.
A record of such drills should be maintained, detailing date, number of participants, evacuation time and any problems encountered. It should be stressed that a physical evacuation may not always be required and for small premises housing only small numbers of staff it is normally sufficient to have brief but regular discussions regarding what responsibilities and actions are attributed to which individuals.
Everyone should be familiar with the evacuation procedure and be aware of alternative escape routes in case any are impassable. All staff should therefore be given instructions as to what to do in the event of a fire and this will form part of their induction training.
A large volume of people will cause congestion and therefore in larger premises ‘Zoned evacuation’ may need to be applied – where evacuation takes place by one floor or compartment at a time, in sequence, with the highest risk area leaving first. Clearly in such cases the simultaneous sounding of the alarm throughout the entire premises would not be appropriate.
All premises should have trained designated Fire Wardens or Fire Marshals (there is no difference). Whilst there is no specified number or ratio of Fire Wardens on a premises, when determining the number of trained individuals it is important to consider the likely impact of leave due to holidays or sickness. Weekend and shift work should also be taken into account.
Fire Wardens are responsible for:
- Ensuring that all fire escape routes are kept clear and unobstructed at all times.
- Ensuring all occupants – including staff, visitors and contractors leave the building safely via the designated escape routes and that lifts are not used.
- Checking that all areas are clear and that doors and windows are closed when leaving the area.
- Conducting the roll call at the assembly areas(s) taking account of the record of visitors, to the premises – which must be continually updated.
- Liaising with the fire brigade and advising them of any relevant details including for example the existence / location of any high risk items that may be stored on the premises and details of any person not accounted for.
It is important that personnel with responsibility for fire safety have an understanding of the properties and classes of fire, suitability of differing types of extinguishers to fight varying types of fire and indeed under what circumstances to use them. (Nominated personnel should never place themselves at risk.) Specialist training – normally lasting no more than one day – is necessary for those performing this role.
There should be a single senior person, for example a safety officer, who carries overall responsibility for fire safety, including procedure for alert of emergency services, training arrangements, appointment of Fire Wardens, equipment maintenance and record keeping. A deputy is required during periods of absence.
Specific arrangements must be made for evacuating individuals who are particularly vulnerable, including the elderly, and disabled. It should be remembered that lifts cannot be used in an emergency and that those who are deaf or hard of hearing may not hear a fire bell. A range of technical and other solutions are available.