In 2021, the Fire and Rescue Department of Malaysia recorded 7,447 structural fire cases involving 804 shops, 408 factories, 263 storage facilities, 200 offices, and other structural buildings and residential premises. With high numbers of fire cases in the country, regular fire drills in the workplace are essential in an organization’s emergency response plan to ensure the safety of all staff working on the premises. An efficient fire drill should meet several objectives in the workplace.
Ensure that all staff are familiar with the fire evacuation process.
A fire drill can involve a full or partial evacuation of the staff, depending on the scale of the fire in the scenario. Regardless of the types of evacuation, all staff need to be familiar with the fire evacuation process, including:
- The alarm
- All evacuation routes available in the workplace
- Designated assembly points
- Roles of floor wardens
From recognizing the alarm to reporting at the designated assembly points, getting familiarized with the entire fire evacuation process allows all staff to have a smooth evacuation in case of a real fire. Any doubts or questions about fire evacuation can be addressed during the drill so that everyone is confident in carrying out an evacuation orderly.
Educate all staff on the fire response plan.
Since the fire evacuation process is only part of the organization’s fire response plan, all staff should be educated about the fire response plan so that individuals know what to do if they come across a fire in the workplace.
These are a few examples of actions that any staff can take when encountering a fire:
- If it is a minor fire incident, such as a fire in the trash can, use a fire extinguisher to put out the fire and report it to the persons in charge.
- Close the door to contain the fire within the enclosed space.
- Inform the persons in charge right away about a fire incident.
A proper process to escalate the fire incident to the right person while taking safe procedures can shorten the reaction time and minimize the damage. Hence, a fire drill is an opportunity to raise awareness about the fire response plan of the organization.
Assess the efficiency of the fire response plan.
On a large scale involving many staff across multiple departments, persons in charge should put the fire response plan to test regularly. It can prevent the fire response plan from being too unrealistic to carry out and highlight areas to be improved. Thus, assessing the efficiency of a fire response plan during a fire drill is crucial for an organization.
Persons in charge should have a checklist to assess the efficiency of the fire response plan and collect feedback from the staff to ensure that the current planning works to get all staff to safety in case of a fire. The checklist can include elements such as:
- Time taken for the evacuation
- Number of staff evacuated
- Number of floor wardens on duty
- The overall response of staff evacuated
- Designated assembly points are at a safe distance
Ensure that all fire safety facilities are in good working condition.
Fire safety facilities are set up and maintained to facilitate evacuation during a fire incident. During a fire drill, the persons in charge should evaluate the working conditions of these facilities. For example:
- Alarms are loud and clear on all premises in the workplace.
- Evacuation routes are free from obstruction.
- Exit signs are displayed and illuminated.
- Fire doors operate as intended.
Fire drills serve as a routine to check on these fire safety facilities as they are one of the keys to a safe evacuation of staff from the workplace.
A fire incident can happen during any hour of the day. Even though the laws and regulations in Malaysia do not indicate the frequency of mandatory fire drills in the workplace, it is ideal to ensure that all staff from all shifts have gone through the fire drill so that everyone is well informed and practiced. Moreover, the turnover rate of staff should be taken into account when deciding the frequency of conducting a fire drill as well.