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How to prepare an emergency evacuation plan

How to prepare an emergency evacuation plan

All businesses need an emergency plan. It must clearly explain the procedure to follow if a fire breaks out.

The following should be communicated to staff:

1. What to do if they discover a fire
Raise the alarm and contact the emergency services. If the fire is small enough it may be able to be extinguished (see firefighting equipment) but safety always comes first. If in doubt, evacuate.

2. What to do if they hear the fire alarm
Leave as quickly as possible by the designated emergency route. Fire marshals have additional duties and responsibilities if the alarm rings, this is covered later in this blog.

3. Escape routes, refuges and exits, especially those not in regular use
These need to be clearly signed. Evacuation routes must be clear of boxes, tables, or storage of anything, even temporarily. Drills need to be undertaken once a year (minimum) so people are familiar with the evacuation route.

4. How to raise the alarm
Where are the fire alarm call points? How are they used?

5. Who calls the fire and rescue service
This needs to be done as soon as possible. This is usually a responsibility of the fire marshal(s).

6. Provisions for people with disabilities
If a member of staff requires additional assistance, ensure they have a Personal Emergency and Evacuation Plan which clearly explains how they will evacuate.

7. Evacuation procedures, guide to exits, make sure you’re clear of the building.
Keep evacuation routes clear. Fire exit routes should be clearly signed and there should be an emergency evacuation map clearly displayed.

How often is fire safety training needed?

The law says that fire drills need to be done, as a minimum, once a year. However all employees must do a drill at least once a year, so you may need to do more than one if people are not in on drill day or if new employees are hired.

Once a year is the bare minimum. It’s best to do regular fire drills to test and fine tune the evacuation process.

Fire drills need to be recorded in the fire risk assessment. If any particular risks or hazards are identified, these also need to be noted and steps taken to remove these.

All employees need fire safety training on their first day.

When it comes to firefighting equipment, staff need to know where the equipment is stored and how to use it. In larger premises, only specific staff (fire wardens) need to be trained.

Types of fire extinguishers

Water

This is marked with a red stripe. Can be used on any fire involving wood, fabrics, paper, plastics and coal (class A fires). Water must never be used on electrical fires

Foam

Cream stripe. Also for class A fires, but can also be used on fires caused by flammable liquids such as spirits and petrol (class B fires).

Carbon dioxide

Black stripe. Can be used on electrical fires and flammable liquids (class B).

Dry powder

Blue stripe. This can be used on all types of fire EXCEPT those involving cooking oils, e.g. a deep fat fryer fire. This is the only type of extinguisher that can be used for flammable gas and flammable metal fires (class C and class D).

Wet chemical

Yellow stripe. Can be used on class A fires and those involving cooking fats and oils (class F).

Fire blankets

For use on small fires, usually those involving fat, oil or grease in cooking areas.

Fire wardens

Fire wardens are not only needed when the alarm rings, they’re also needed to check the building regularly to ensure it is as fire safe as possible. However it is handy if all employees know what risks to look out for to minimise the possibility of fire.

They also need to carry out fire drills and fire safety training for new employees and test smoke alarms weekly.

What happens if there’s a fire?

Fire wardens need to organise the following:

  • Raising the alarm
  • Contacting the emergency services
  • Closing doors (some fire doors can be closed automatically with certain hold open devices that release to the sound of the fire alarm)
  • Pointing people to emergency exits
  • Helping those that need extra assistance, such as disabled people or pregnant women
  • Checking everyone has left the premises
  • Tackling small fires with fire extinguishers, though only if this does not put them at any risk
  • Roll call when everyone has assembled in a safe area.

How many fire wardens are needed?

In a normal risk premises the following applies:

Fewer than 20 employees: At least one fire warden
20-75 employees: At least two fire wardens
For every additional 75: One additional fire warden

It’s important to remember that all shifts must be adequately covered, so you may have to nominate additional fire wardens to ensure there are enough for each shift.

For higher risk premises, such as care homes, more fire wardens are required. Specific details are available in our care home fire safety blog.

A well planned emergency evacuation procedure is essential, but only works if everyone in your building has been trained in fire safety. Education is key. Make sure everyone receives regular training and understands the importance of fire safety.

Evacuation plans need to be visible, fire exit signs need to be clear and people must know who to speak to if they spot something they think could be dangerous. If everyone knows what is unsafe and needs to be dealt with, the risk of fire is reduced.

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After the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, fire safety is an issue on everyone’s minds. Questions are being asked about inadequate safety measures. How do we stop this from happening again?

Four-step guide to help prevent fire

Four-step guide to help prevent fire

Fire safety education isn’t just about what to do when the fire alarm sounds. It’s also about the prevention of fire, and methods to minimise harm and damage if a fire does break out. Prevention is the best form of firefighting. Training can stop fires happening.

Employers are legally required to provide information, instruction and training to employees about fire precautions in the workplace. What are the four steps that need to be covered?

  • Basic fire prevention
  • Good housekeeping
  • Risk awareness
  • Smoking policy

Basic fire prevention

It’s important to improve fire safety culture to prevent fire in the workplace. Educate your staff about what is a fire hazard, and make sure they know who to speak to if they spot something they think could be dangerous.

Ian Gough, fire safety consultant and former firefighter, believes education is key when it comes to fire safety. “If people know why they shouldn’t do something, such as block evacuation routes or wedge open fire doors, they’re more likely to stop doing it. If they’re just told not to with no explanation, the chances are they’ll carry on doing it without thinking.

“People know they mustn’t wedge fire doors but do they really understand why? The average person doesn’t see it as important. They think it’s just a short-term measure, but then forget to remove the wedge.

“It’s important that people know why closed doors are so valuable. I’ve even seen non-fire resistant doors hold back fire. A fire door only has to be open a crack for it to be useless and for fire and smoke to spread.”

Fire spreads quickly. Evacuation routes need to be kept clear so people can leave the building immediately. Fire doors are specially designed to hold back fire for a certain amount of time, so people can exit safely and the emergency services can tackle the fire. If fire doors are wedged open they can’t do their job, and fire and smoke will continue to spread rapidly.

Risk awareness

All businesses need a fire risk assessment which must be regularly checked and updated. Staff can help with this if they know what to look for. Has anything changed in the building that might cause a fire hazard? Has something blocked a fire exit? Has an important member of staff left? Is more training required?

Ian Gough said: “It’s important that the person that completes the fire risk assessment is familiar with the day-to-day running of the  building. People need to be taught to look after their building and its individual needs.

“This is why it is so important for risk assessments to be ongoing; if something is spotted it needs to be noted down in the risk assessment. During a fire drill, if someone noticed that an evacuation route was difficult to use, for example, the plan would need to change.”

Housekeeping

A neat and tidy building creates a more pleasant environment and is also an important part of any fire safety strategy.

  • Keep anything that can catch fire away from anything that can cause fire, such as a stove or a heater.
  • Tumble dryers are a common cause of fire. If your building has one, ensure that the lint tray is cleaned daily.
  • Never overload an extension cord or outlet. If a cord has any frayed wiring, it needs to be replaced.
  • Keep clutter away from fire exits and firefighting equipment. If something is blocking an exit route it must be removed immediately. Also ensure electrical control panels are accessible.
  • Discard fire hazards in a covered metal container and ensure the bins are emptied regularly.
  • All machines should be regularly checked. Any electrical hazards should be reported and all repairs only undertaken by a professional.
  • Prevent arson by ensuring the building is locked and windows are closed. Report anything suspicious.

Smoking policy

Any smoking areas should be well away from the building and there must be a place to dispose of cigarettes safely. Smoking is not permitted in the workplace (apart from certain exemptions such as smoking rooms in hotels or care homes).

Don’t forget your emergency plan

With all these precautions taken, the risk of fire is minimised but it is still a possibility. If the worst does happen, you’ll need an emergency plan.

We explore this more in depth in a separate blog, but your emergency plan must cover:

  • What to do if you discover a fire
  • Alerting everyone if there’s a fire
  • Evacuation procedure
  • Emergency exits
  • Contacting emergency services
  • Firefighting equipment

If you’ve taken all the precautions recommended the risk to people and property is vastly reduced even if a fire does break out. Be sensible and be safe. If you see something that seems like it could be a fire risk: stop, think and act.

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Fire safety education isn’t just about what to do when the fire alarm sounds. It’s also about the prevention of fire, and methods to minimise harm and damage if a fire does break out.

Why do we need fire doors?

Fire doors save lives. They’re designed to stop the spread of fire and smoke for a specified amount of time.

Is it illegal to wedge open a fire door?

Is it illegal to wedge open a fire door?

It is dangerous to wedge or prop open a fire door as the safety of occupants cannot be guaranteed if there is a fire. Fire doors need to be closed to prevent the spread of fire and smoke.

Legally, if you wedge open a fire door and it is judged that this puts someone’s life at risk, you could suffer penalties, including some hefty fines.

Fire doors can be held open legally with certain devices that allow the door to automatically close if the alarm sounds. Click here to find out more.

 

Wedging open fire doors can lead to catastrophic consequences. It has a knock-on effect which isn’t limited to paying a huge fine; it can also lead to prison sentences and ultimately loss of life.

Why are fire doors necessary?

Fire doors are a vital part of a building’s fire strategy, and can only do their job if they are closed. They are specially designed to prevent the spread of fire and smoke through a building so people can evacuate safely and the building is protected from damage.

A wedged door prevents a fire door from closing, which means the fire can spread, putting all occupants in danger. Fire doors are clearly marked with a sign stating ‘Fire door, keep shut’. If you see a fire door that is held open, whether that’s with a door wedge, fire extinguisher, chair, pot plant or anything else, you need to make sure the obstruction is removed so the door stays closed.

Invalidating insurance

In the event of a fire, it is quite possible that an insurer would be unwilling to pay for damages when a door has been wedged or propped open. The majority of fire doors will hold a fire in a room for 30 minutes by which time the Fire & Rescue service will be on site. Wedging open doors can, and has, caused a chimney effect, which causes fire to spread rapidly, destroying entire buildings.

Wedging or propping open a fire door can prove devastating as it allows fire to spread unchecked, putting lives and buildings at risk. Despite this, 64% of premises visited by the Fire Service have fire doors wedged open.

But it’s not as simple as saying don’t wedge that door. We want fire doors open, as they are a nuisance in everyday life. We know they can be heavy, cause obstruction and even injuries.

Why do people wedge open fire doors?

Despite the dangers and risk of legal penalties for wedging open fire doors, people still do it. Closed doors are a pain. They get in the way if you’re trying to carry a tray of drinks or your luggage. They hinder access if you’re using a wheelchair or walking stick or pushing a buggy. They can cause a room to be hot and stuffy by restricting the flow of air.

Fire doors are heavy and can be a struggle to get through. They can be difficult to open, particularly for frailer people, those with mobility issues, or young children at schools and nurseries.

However leaving fire doors wedged or propped open disregards the safety of others. It is also against the law. The only safe way for fire doors to be held open is with special devices that close them automatically on the sound of the alarm.

Fire safety starts with a thorough risk assessment to assess the individual needs of a building. Click here to find out more.

It’s time to kick the wedge!

The common door wedge is our enemy here at Fireco. As we’ve seen, when fire doors are wedged open, they aren’t able to to do their job properly, and this puts people’s lives at risk.

Send us your wedge pictures!

Join our kick the wedge campaign! Send us your images of badly wedged or propped open fire doors. We’ll post your pictures on our website and on our Twitter page. Either tweet us your pictures @Fireco using #kickthewedge or email us contact@fireco.uk using the subject line ‘Kick the wedge’.

Below you’ll see a few shocking examples we’ve seen, or people have sent us. Fire doors should not be propped open with bricks, fire extinguishers, chairs, wedges or anything else just found lying around!

When fire doors are wedged or propped open, businesses are at risk of fines, but more seriously, it puts people’s lives in danger. Don’t pay the price of the door wedge.

 

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Why do we need fire doors?

Fire doors save lives. They’re designed to stop the spread of fire and smoke for a specified amount of time.

How to improve fire door access

Closed fire doors save lives. They prevent fire spreading through a building, which gives people more time to evacuate. But closed fire doors can get in the way. What solutions are there to improve access for everyone?

How to prevent the spread of fire

How to prevent the spread of fire

After the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, fire safety is an issue on everyone’s minds. Questions are being asked about inadequate safety measures causing fire to spread rapidly through buildings with large numbers of occupants.

The Grenfell Tower investigation is ongoing, but clearly fire protection measures either failed or were not there in the first place. It is important to address how disasters like this can avoided in the future.

Keeping fire contained

To prevent a fire from spreading, different sections of a building must be built as fire-resistant compartments. This means they will resist the passage of fire for a specified period of time. If a fire is contained in a compartment, it won’t spread to other parts of the building. People can evacuate safely and firefighters can extinguish the fire.

In a tower block, for instance, each flat should be a separate, fire resistant compartment. This would ensure that if one resident started a fire, it would not spread to other flats for a specified amount of time (usually 30 minutes).

Day-to-day, the most important way for a building’s occupants to keep a building safe is through keeping fire doors closed. Fire doors are specially made to resist fire for a certain amount of time and keep the fire contained within that compartment. If the door is open, the fire will spread rapidly. This is why wedging open fire doors is so dangerous.

Banish the wedge forever with devices that hold fire doors open, releasing them to close on the sound of the alarm. Click here to find out more.

Compartmentation keeps a fire contained, giving time for emergency services to deal with the situation. People should also be able to evacuate safely and damage to a building is minimised.

Make sure you are aware of holes and gaps in the walls from installing piping and wiring through a building. When you drill holes through a building to run cables and those holes aren’t filled in, you severely compromise any fire safety plans in place. If a fire starts, it will spread through any gaps, igniting anything flammable in its path.

Keep people informed

Hand in hand with compartmentation is the need for all building users to have clear information on what is the safest action to take, whether that is to stay put and await the fire service, or evacuate safely.

It is important to note that a building’s occupants should only be advised to stay put if compartmentation measures are in place. If fire doors, and fire resistant wall and ceiling protection materials are inadequate, it is NOT SAFE for building users to be advised to stay put. Under these circumstances, occupants should evacuate as quickly as possible.

Evacuation routes need to be clearly marked, all building users, including visitors, need to be informed of fire safety procedures, and information has to be readily available at all times so people can check anything if they are unsure.

All landlords, building owners, managers, and other responsible people have a clear responsibility under the law that their premises meet all fire safety requirements. Buildings must be effectively maintained to provide protection in the event of a fire.

A thorough risk assessment must be carried out to make sure that all buildings have the correct fire safety measures in place. When regulations are breached, lives are at risk.

Click here for our five-step risk assessment checklist

Lessons from Lakanal House

Unfortunately, lessons were not learned from the Lakanal House tower block fire. Southwark Council was fined £570,000 for a 2009 tower block fire in which six people were killed. The London Fire Brigade brought the prosecution against the council as Lakanal House in Camberwell, south London, had a number of structural and safety issues which breached fire regulations.

During the investigation into the cause of the fire, it was revealed that 999 operators had told residents to stay in their flats. This meant that some residents were trapped when the fire spread more rapidly than anticipated.

Stay put was the wrong advice

Emergency service operators were rightly following the ‘stay put’ procedure for tower blocks which has been in place since the 1990s. When dealing with emergency situations, 999 operators offer advice based on the assumption that buildings have the correct fire safety measures in place, for example that fire doors would be closed and not wedged open and fire resistant materials would be incorporated into the building’s walls and ceilings. These measures prevent flames and smoke from spreading.

However, this was not the case at Lakanal House. There were inadequate compartmentation measures in place including an absence of strips or seals on doors in the buildings, a lack of cavity barriers in the ceilings and inadequate fire protection to the timber stairs in the common corridor.

At the inquest, Peter Holland, Chief Fire and Rescue advisor for the Communities and Local Government department, stated that correct compartmentation is vital for the ‘stay put’ policy in tower blocks to be safe. This would have kept the fire contained for one hour while the emergency services dealt with the situation. As the correct measures were not in place in Lakanal House, the fire spread at an alarmingly fast rate.

Due to the unprecedented nature of the situation, there was no clear guidance for operators on what was the safest action to take for residents of Lakanal House. According to Peter Holland, this would have been for residents to be told to evacuate if they felt they were in jeopardy.

Who is responsible?

Dan Daly, London Fire Brigade’s assistant commissioner for fire safety, said: “All landlords, including large housing providers, such as councils and housing associations, have a clear responsibility under the law that their premises meet all fire safety requirements are effectively maintained to provide protection in the event of a fire and keep their residents safe.”

It is essential that risk assessments are carried out to make sure that buildings have the correct fire safety measures in place. Closed fire doors and other fire-resistant structures are vital to prevent the spread of fire in a building, so the fire can be contained and residents can stay safe or evacuate. When these regulations are breached, lives are at risk.

fireco helps with fire safety

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Fire safety education isn’t just about what to do when the fire alarm sounds. It’s also about the prevention of fire, and methods to minimise harm and damage if a fire does break out.

How to prevent the spread of fire

After the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, fire safety is an issue on everyone’s minds. Questions are being asked about inadequate safety measures. How do we stop this from happening again?

Why do we need fire doors?

Fire doors save lives. They’re designed to stop the spread of fire and smoke for a specified amount of time.

Everything you need to know about hotel fire safety

Everything you need to know about hotel fire safety

Here are our top tips for complying with fire regulations if you work in a hotel:

1. Everything starts with a fire risk assessment. All hotels, whatever the size, must complete one. Regular checks of the building need to be made to ensure that fire doors are not damaged in any way. Fire doors must be kept closed and not wedged open. Hazards, such as frayed wiring or blocked escape routes, must be removed.

2. Risk assessments should be ongoing. All risks must be noted and dealt with as soon as possible, rather than a ‘tick-box’ exercise carried out once a year.

Still confused about fire risk assessments? Click here for our quick and handy guide.

3. Staff training is vital to ensure hotel fire safety. All employees need to be able to identify and report fire risks, as well as knowing all escape routes, and what to do in an emergency. Try to spread out fire training across the year. This includes evacuation drills, how to use a fire blanket, fire extinguisher training and how to change the lint filters in tumble dryers.

4. Make sure that there is a clear evacuation route in case of emergency. Watch out for the following hazards:

  • Wedged open fire doors. If a fire door is wedged open, fire and smoke can spread easily rather than being contained. This will make evacuation difficult as corridors will become full of smoke
  • Corridors cluttered with stored furniture will make escape difficult
  • Inaccessible stairwells because of a fire door rendered useless with a door wedge
  • Confusing signs

Banish dangerous door wedges forever with products that hold your fire doors open legally. Click here for more information.

Quick tips — a visual guide

Don’t prop open fire doors. Whether it’s with Henry the hoover, a fire extinguisher, a plant, a brick or a door wedge, fire doors need to remain closed to prevent the spread of smoke and fire.

Ensure escape routes are not blocked and kept clear.

 

Keep fire doors in good condition. Locking this damaged door won’t stop those gaps allowing smoke and fire to rage through. This fire door is completely useless.

A fire has traumatic consequences if preventative measures aren’t in place. Fines, closure and loss of reputation can follow a fire, as well as the risk of someone dying.

What does the law say?

The Fire Safety Order (FSO) is the current law in England and Wales. This states that one ‘responsible person’ (usually the owner or manager) is in charge of compliance. This ‘responsible person’ can nominate a ‘competent person’ to receive the fire training and ensure day-to-day compliance with regulations if they prefer.

Common breaches of fire regulations in hotels

Fire safety experts checked a group of 17 hotels in Liverpool, Sheffield, Birmingham and Manchester. They found issues which breached fire regulations in almost every one. What were the most common things they encountered?

  • Ill-fitting doors in frames
  • Damaged fire doors
  • Fire and smoke seals in poor condition
  • Fire doors wedged open

What are the penalties?

In England and Wales, a breach of fire regulations used to result in a fine of up to £5,000 in the Magistrates’ courts unlike the Crown Court where the penalty was an unlimited fine and/or prison.

Now, the penalty in the Magistrates’ Court is an unlimited fine and the person responsible for fire safety will be prosecuted as an individual, not as a company. This means that in future, less cases need to go to the Crown Court and fines can increase, especially if you have a significant turnover. On top of this, any enforcement action is published online for everyone to see.

Here are some of the heftiest recorded fines that the UK hotel industry has seen.

5. White Swan Hotel, Arundel, 2007
£25,000
When a fire broke out at the White Swan Hotel, 10 guests were left trapped in their bedrooms. The guests were rescued, but subsequent investigations found a list of serious fire safety breaches.

  • Fire doors were wedged open
  • Fire alarms weren’t tested correctly
  • Staff did not have adequate fire safety training
  • Fire alarm panel was switched to ‘silent’ mode.
  • No suitable emergency plan in case of a fire.

4. Tantons Hotel, Bideford, 2011
£40,000
Tantons Hotel was ordered to pay £40,000 in fines after being condemned for breaching fire safety regulations. 55 guests narrowly escaped serious injury or death after a fire broke out. At 4am:

  • The fire alarm failed
  • A guest was sent back to their room when fire was spreading through the building and
  • A fire exit was blocked by cans of cooking oil
  • An elderly guest was fearful for her life when she was trapped between a fire exit which failed to open and another door that had no handle. The judge commented that the hotel was a ‘death trap.’

3. The Belfry Hotel, Cheshire, 2008
£75,000
Firefighters carried out a routine visit to this luxury hotel and discovered their inadequate safety precautions were putting their guests at serious risk. They found:

  • No working fire alarms
  • Faulty smoke detectors
  • Poor fire exits
  • Lack of fire safety training for staff.
  • The hotel was immediately closed but re-opened after the issues were resolved and the required equipment fitted.

2. The Radnor Hotel, London, 2015
£200,000
The former owner of The Radnor Hotel was fined £200,000 — the biggest ever fine from the London Fire Brigade, after a routine inspection found several serious fire safety breaches.

  • Missing fire doors
  • No fire risk assessment
  • Inadequate fire detection systems and emergency lighting
  • Fire doors were tied open using string, extension cords and an extinguisher used as a wedge
  • The former owner was also given a four month prison sentence.

1. The Chumleigh Lodge Hotel, London, 2012
£210,000
The offences date back to 2008. The fire brigade were called when a fire spread rapidly from a first floor bedroom to the second floor. Three people escaped. After the fire, fire inspectors found 12 offences including:

  • Obstructed fire escape routes
  • No smoke alarms
  • Defective fire doors
  • Unsuitable fire risk assessment and no staff training
  • The case was a landmark hearing, as it was the first time a jury convicted a defendant rather than a judge or magistrate.

A fire has traumatic consequences if preventative measures aren’t in place. Fines, closure and loss of reputation can follow a fire, as well as the risk of someone dying.

Compliance doesn’t need to be complicated or difficult for you, we can help, with solutions that make compliance easy. And maybe you can avoid a situation like this one!

 

Sources. FDIS, FIA, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/do-you-have-paying-guests

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