Building Occupant Evacuation Drills

In order to minimize risks in occupied buildings, it is essential to plan for emergency evacuations and to conduct regular fire drills. Evacuation exercises are particularly important for residential facilities, high-rise buildings, patient treatment facilities and day-care centres. The required frequencies of fire drill evacuation exercises are outlined in the code and are also listed in each building's approved fire safety plan. Fire safety planning works best when you establish a committee of members from the building, which should include representatives from each floor.

It is necessary to appoint a building emergency management coordinator and floor wardens. For larger buildings, consideration should be given to designating more than one warden per floor. Always choose alternates for each position to cover absences. It is important to ensure that signs indicating evacuation routes are posted in frequently travelled areas of the building and are clearly visible. In addition, special attention must be given to the evacuation procedures for occupants with special needs.

Fire drills should involve all occupants, as everyone should leave the building when the fire alarm sounds. It is critical for building personnel and floor wardens to be familiar with the fire alarm sequence, including the first and second stage alarms, their associated audible signals, and the duties to be carried out at each point in a fire emergency. Emphasis should be placed on a safe and orderly evacuation, rather than speed. Occupants should close but not lock doors as they leave their room or office. If there are concerns regarding confidential papers or other materials, the evacuation plan should include securing articles in a lockable filing cabinet or desk.

All building evacuees should congregate at a pre-determined location away from the building, as indicated on the site drawing in the approved fire safety plan. It must be stressed to all occupants that the elevators must never be used during a fire emergency. Floor wardens must attempt to keep their group together, and conduct a "head count" at the congregation area to ensure that all evacuees have left the building. Everyone must stay well clear of the fire department entrance, access routes, fire hydrants and safety equipment. This will help to prevent obstructions and delayed responses to the emergency. All activities during the fire drill are to be logged into an approved up-to-date fire safety plan, which is either kept in the lock box of the main lobby entrance or with the front desk security personnel.

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