When working in any business environment preparation is absolutely everything.
According to Home Office statistics, the most up to date average time for the fire service to attend a fire incident in England was eight minutes and 49 seconds, which means that your organisation is responsible for handling the initial response and those first nine minutes.
Some organisations (i.e. high-risk businesses) depending on the level of risk and response needed, may have some level of dedicated fire response such as Fire response teams to handle fire emergencies.
An emergency plan forms part of your operational business resilience, incident response and contributes towards your duty of care to your employees. This document may include details of risk assessments, site-specific risks and hazards, site layout, key personnel, roles and responsibilities, communications, evacuation plans, health and safety plans and your operational response, testing that response and provision.
A fire evacuation plan is a key document in its own right; however, it is likely to form part of your overall health and safety standards and emergency response procedures.
Detection and Alert Systems
Make sure you have a system in place to detect fires and other emergencies. This procedure should be regularly tested and reviewed on a frequent basis to ensure it meets legal compliance by an appointed person, who is competent to run fire evacuation tests.
Make sure you have nominated people who act as fire marshals and emergency responders. These appointed people have a very important role in the event of a fire incident and emergency and will need to relay important information and brief the emergency services upon arrival at the scene.
In an emergency, every second counts, so an effective emergency alert system such as a fire detection system, which detects for smoke, temperature and carbon monoxide. Having a system of emergency alarms that can be activated manually will provide a backup process. Your Fire marshals and safety officers should be on hand to guide staff members to the assembly points via the safest and most direct route and the emergency services are notified.
Early detection also plays a critical role in protecting the safety of emergency response personnel. It also helps to minimise the potential loss of property and reduce operational downtime as control measures have been implemented early.
Escape Routes and Emergency Exits
Escape routes should be marked, clear and suitable for all employees to exit safely. Make sure they are easily visible, ideally with a marker or light in case there is a loss of power. Always have contingencies in case a route is too dangerous to easily exit. It may be worth reviewing these contingencies to ensure they still comply with Covid-safe protocols.
When choosing emergency doors, be mindful that they must be both robust and easy to open from the inside.
Training and Protocols
Make sure that all staff clearly understand what actions to take when an alarm sounds or an emergency occurs. Having easy to read and visible signs and posters will increase awareness and education which help play a vital role in helping to prevent emergencies. If possible, locate these close to the nearest exit, where firefighting and first aid equipment are positioned.
Make sure all personnel know where their nearest assembly point is located. Engaging your employees in health and safety matters will help them to better understand their responsibilities
Training courses, covering first aid, fire safety and emergency response will help your fire marshals, first aiders and site responders improve their skills, confidence and maintain their certifications.
Make sure you know where power systems are located in-case they need to be switched off for a period.