Overview: While having an emergency plan in place may be legally required, oftentimes putting that plan into practice (through drills and the like) is not. However, without practice a plan's weaknesses will never be exposed and employees may forget what to do in the event of panic during a true emergency situation.
To encourage safety in the workplace, regular fire and evacuation drills should be conducted to ensure that employees are prepared and that nothing goes wrong during the real event. When a drill takes place, there are several things that HR should look for to determine the success of the response. For example, did everyone hear the alarm? Were the evacuation routes free from hazards and easily accessible for all employees? Did all alarms go off successfully? Was there a system for conducting a headcount?
After a drill, the employer should evaluate the plan to be confident it works, update anything that did not work and conduct a follow-up drill to better guarantee the new plan is a success.
Trends: Employers may want to take advantage of recent initiatives like Fire Prevention Week and National Preparedness Month to test their emergency response systems with appropriate drills.
Author: Ashley Shaw, JD, Legal Editor
Employers who want to provide an overview of the evacuation procedures set forth in a written emergency action plan should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
This briefing for supervisors examines the law and best practices regarding fire safety in the workplace, including preparing fire prevention plans, identifying and resolving fire hazards and training employees on fire safety.
An employer may use this policy to assign a framework of response relating to a fire emergency or necessary workplace evacuation, as well as to designate the frequency of drills and other methods to test the procedures. A Fire and Evacuation Drill policy offers the essential information required for life saving actions during an emergency and helps reduce the time needed to depart safely from the building, and should include aspects of fire response, such as location and use of fire extinguishers.
All employers should prepare their workforce for a fire or other emergency that requires an orderly, prompt evacuation of the property. This How To guides employers on conducting a fire and evacuation drill.
HR guidance on conducting drills to increase the likelihood of a successful workplace response in a real emergency.