How Effective is your Evacuation Plan?
What is an Evacuation Plan?
A fire emergency evacuation plan (FEEP) is an essential document for any company. It is the detailed and structured written plan that lists out the actions that people must take in the event of a fire.
This plan should be as detailed as appropriate to your operation and will depend on the size of your company, the building, the fire risks etc. It could range from a Fire Action notice that ensures staff follow a series of simple steps to a more complex document incorporating: -
- Actions on discovering a fire or hearing the alarm
- The roles of Fire Wardens
- Calling the emergency services
- Escape routes, and places of assembly
- Use of firefighting equipment
- Power isolation, electrical/mechanical processes/shutdown
- Training regime
What types of evacuation plans are there?
When ensuring that you have the right evacuation plan in place it is important to consider the varying types that exist. The focus must always be on developing and implementing the right plan for your company:
Simultaneous Evacuation – this is probably the most common type of plan and focuses on everyone in the business evacuating the building on hearing the alarm. The effectiveness of this approach is reliant on adequate evacuation routes and the ability of the staff to follow their instructions.
Vertical or Horizontal Phased Evacuation – this approach is particularly relevant to large premises that either have a number of floors or have buildings spread out across a large site. If this is the case, it might be possible to roll out a staggered evacuation of a floor at a time or a series of rooms at a time. This is dependent on structural elements that would facilitate the isolation of the fire.
Staff Alarm Evacuation – in some cases it might be preferable for certain individuals to be made aware of a fire in advance of a general alarm. This might be so that particular actions can be carried out or it could be due to there being a number of members of the public or suppliers on your premises.
Defend in Place – In very particular cases it might be preferable for people to remain where they are and await the arrival of the emergency services. This might be in the case in hospitals or care homes or where there is equipment that cannot just be left unattended or abandoned.
Special measures for those with disabilities - If you have staff with visual, hearing or mobility impairments, they will need a special plan called a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP). This will be written around the needs of the individual. Measures could range from arranging an evacuation buddy, to having a modified fire alarm, to the use of special evacuation chairs (link).
Why do you need an evacuation plan?
Quite simply, an evacuation plan is required in order to prevent loss of life. In must instigate the safest and most straightforward evacuation of a building. The plan must be tailored to the specific needs of your company, employees and premises. It must reflect the risks from any machinery you have, it must take into account passageways, obstructions, emergency doors, exits and the capacity of your staff to follow the plan. Employees with any form of mobility issues must be considered and catered for.
As an employer it is your responsibility to meet the required standards of fire safety in the workplace. Legislation now specifies that it is the employer who is responsible for fire evacuation plans.
What makes an effective evacuation plan?
But it is not enough to just have a plan created. In order to ensure that it is effective and fit for purpose it must be continually reviewed, tested and adjusted if required. It is not a mere tick-box exercise. The introduction of new staff, structural changes to a building or changes in legislation could all necessitate modification of your existing plan.
Further to this, an effective evacuation plan is reliant on the designated person assuming responsibility for the process. This person must be fully able to implement and manage the plan, make the right decisions at the right time and be fully trained to current requirements.
Every employer hopes that they are not going to need to test the efficiency of their fire evacuation plan, but given the devastating consequences of fire it is simply not acceptable to be anything other than 100% prepared.
How effective is your evacuation plan? – Top Tips
- Review your plan regularly
- Ensure your appointed fire wardens have been trained
- Conduct regular drills
- Ensure that fire fighting equipment, alarms, safety signs and Fire Warden equipment are adequate and well maintained
- Ensure all new staff are introduced to the plan as part of their induction
- Make the plan easy to find in your company filing system
- Provide diagrammatic evacuation route maps to assist understanding where appropriate
- Document all fire related activity and review any data available
- Align with current legislation
- Consult external experts if you are unsure