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Implementing a Fire Evacuation Plan for Your Business

Implementing a Fire Evacuation Plan for Your Business

Ideally, every business and residence should have an up-to-date fire evacuation plan.

Neither a business owner nor a building owner anticipates a fire originating in their structure to begin with and unpreparedness can lead to fatalities and severe injuries if a fire occurs and is not discovered and extinguished quickly.

You and your employees will be safe if you follow the steps below to set up a fire evacuation plan.

How Does An Emergency Action Plan Work?

Employees and employers must protect each other from fires and other emergencies through a fire emergency evacuation plan.

You can protect yourself, your business, and your employees by preparing an emergency action plan, even if you do not have to do so expressly.  Establishing a comprehensive emergency action plan that covers all aspects of an emergency is relatively easy.  Employees and management may find it beneficial to participate in the process.  Ask them to assist you in establishing and implementing your emergency plan in the event of an emergency and explain your goal of protecting lives and property.  The plan cannot succeed without their support and commitment.

Overview of An Emergency Fire Evacuation Plan

An emergency fire evacuation plan outlines plans and instructions to evacuate employees and other commercial or private property when there is a fire or a sudden, unexpected threat. An evacuation plan for a commercial building describes how your employees will respond to the occurrence of a fire.  An evacuation plan typically describes all possible hazards, explains how everyone in the building will communicate, and describes how all crew members will communicate.

An overview of the fire evacuation process will be presented in the following steps.

Identification of Hazards

It would be best if you first inspected your building for fire hazards since this is the initial course of action.  Some examples include the use of dangerous electronic equipment, cooking areas, and the use of heating sources.  Clearly stated no smoking signs, not allowing space heaters or other potentially hazardous electronics should be part of all business practices to operate safely.  Make sure all employees are aware of these hazards.

Employees Should Be Assigned Roles

Assign key employees fire-safety roles. Among these roles can be someone who performs regular fire safety inspections and enforces regulations, someone who acts as a guide during a fire ensures everyone escapes swiftly but calmly and keeps track of how many people have evacuated.  Alternatively, you can have an employee be responsible for maintaining or distributing preparedness kits.

Develop And Finalize Your Evacuation Plan

Having these ideas on paper is one thing, but putting them into practice is another.  Your plan should be written down in detail and shared with your employees.  Conduct a fire safety conference to cover the details and distribute a customized fire safety guide to each employee.

Make Regular Practice A Habit

In a fire, the tensions will be high, and panic will spread throughout the building.  The more you practice your fire evacuation plan even without a fire, the more likely it is to become part of everyone’s memory and followed during a fire. To protect your employees in the event of a fire, make sure that you have first aid items on hand in addition to developing a fire evacuation plan.

What Should Be Included In An Action Plan?

Thinking about possible dangers at your workplace is the best way to prepare for an emergency.  You should tailor this plan to your specific site and include information about all potential safety hazards and other contingencies in place.

In an emergency, you must include the following minimum action items:

  • Fires and other emergencies should be reported using the following preferred method.
  • Policies and procedures on evacuation.
  • Floor plans, a map of the location, and safe or refuge locations are available to employees in an emergency.
  • Individuals outside the company but within your organization with information on duties or responsibilities under the emergency plan, including their names, titles, departments, and telephone numbers.
  • Providing supervisory instructions on how to perform plant operations such as fire extinguisher use or fire suppression for employees who remain after the evacuation.
  • Any workers designated to rescue, and medical responsibility must be able to do so.

You might also want to designate a place for employees to gather after an evacuation and institute procedures for securing them.

How Can Employees Be Alerted?

Among other things, your plan should outline a way to alert employees, including disabled employees, to take action in the case of an emergency and how to report emergencies, if needed.

These are some of the steps you need to take:

  • Be sure to make the alarms distinct so all employees can recognize and follow your plan.
  • You should provide employees with communication resources to be notified about emergencies and alert fire departments and others.
  • Be sure everyone in the workplace is capable of hearing, seeing, or otherwise responding to alarms.
  • If electricity is lost, one possibility might be to provide an auxiliary power supply.

What Routes Are Designated For Evacuation?

Build your fire evacuation plan by identifying your primary and secondary exits and routes.

Whenever possible, ensure that emergency exits and evacuation routes meet the following conditions:

  • Good signage and lighting.
  • There should be enough room for all evacuating personnel.
  • You must maintain a clear path at all times.
  • There is a low probability that personnel will be exposed to additional hazards.

It may be good to make big drawings depicting emergency exits and evacuation routes that all employees can see.

Training Needed By Your Employees

You should train employees on what kind of emergencies should occur and what to do to handle them.  You may even want to consider using fire marshals if your organization is large enough to warrant it.

Several factors will determine the training your organization requires, including the size of its workforce, processes utilized, materials handled, and availability of onsite or external training resources.

Your company’s emergency action plan should tell all employees what to do during an emergency, including how to report things, what to do if there is an alarm, what to do in evacuations and shutdown procedures.  Discuss possible water-reactive substances, flammable materials, or toxic chemicals that may be present on site.  You need to communicate clear instructions to your employees when an emergency occurs to reduce confusion.

Employees should receive general training in the following areas:

  • Various responsibilities and roles in the team.
  • Protective actions in the face of threats, hazards, and risks.
  • Procedures for notifying, warning, and communicating.
  • Procedures for responding to an emergency.
  • How to evacuate, where to shelter, and how to hold people accountable.
  • Frequently used emergency equipment and its locations.
  • Procedures for emergency shutdowns.

Keeping your employees prepared is imperative after reviewing your fire evacuation plan with them and when they have all received appropriate training.  Gather employees and management after each drill to evaluate its effectiveness.  Develop your plan by identifying its strengths and weaknesses.

Summary

The effects of a fire can be devastating to a business. For this reason, it is essential to develop a plan for commercial fire evacuation that will enable a business to minimize its losses and protect its employees.

A good plan should be based on an analysis of the business and its environment and fire safety training for employees.


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by Harvey Carr // Harvey Carr is a contributor to Businessing Magazine.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.