The following Fire Drill procedures relate to Care Homes/Nursing Homes, although the steps and actions will also apply to any organisation/business.
Once the emergency plan has been developed and training given, you will need to evaluate its effectiveness. The best way to do this is to perform a fire drill.
This should be carried out at least annually or as determined by your fire risk assessment. If you have a high staff turnover, you may need to carry them out more often.
A well-planned and executed fire drill will confirm understanding of the training and provide helpful information for future training.
The responsible person should determine the possible objectives of the drill such as to:
- Identify any weaknesses in the evacuation strategy.
- Test the procedure following any recent alteration or changes to working practices.
- Test the procedure with minimum staff levels.
- Familiarise new members of staff with procedures.
- Familiarise residents with procedures.
- Test the arrangements for disabled people.
Who Should Take Part?
Within each building the evacuation should be for all occupants except those who may need to ensure the security of the premises, or people who, on a risk-assessed basis, cannot be moved, must remain with a resident who cannot be moved, or are required to remain with particular equipment or processes that cannot be closed down.
Premises or complexes that consist of several buildings on the same site should be dealt with one building at a time over an appropriate period unless the emergency procedure dictates otherwise.
You should consider the feasibility of drills involving non-ambulant or semi-ambulant residents where their medical condition permits.
Properly simulated drills will include residents, or a significant number of residents. It is advisable to either have one drill at night or to simulate night time conditions, which would include the applicable night staffing levels.
The frequency of drills should ensure that regular occasional residents (e.g. who attend the home for a few days each month for respite care) are included in some drills.
You may find it helpful to include members of the public (visitors) in your fire drill – ensuring that all necessary health and safety issues are addressed before you do so.
Carrying Out the Drill
For premises that have more than one escape route, the escape plan should be designed to evacuate all people on the assumption that one exit or stairway is unavailable because of the fire.
This could be simulated by a designated person being located at a suitable point on an exit route.
Applying this scenario to different escape routes at each fire drill will encourage individuals to use alternative escape routes which they may not normally use.
When carrying out the drill you might find it helpful to:
- Circulate details concerning the drill and inform all staff of their duty to participate. It may not be beneficial to have ‘surprise drills’ as the health and safety risks introduced may outweigh the benefits.
- Inform residents with learning difficulties by using special techniques (e.g. visual imagery).
- Ensure that equipment can be safely left.
- Nominate observers.
- Inform the alarm receiving centre if the fire warning system is monitored (if the fire and rescue service is normally called directly from your premises, ensure that this does not happen).
- Inform visitors if they are present.
- Ask a member of staff at random to set off the alarm by operating the nearest alarm call point using the test key. This will indicate the level of knowledge regarding the location of the nearest call point (a different call point should be used on different drills).
The Roll Call/Checking the Premises Have Been Evacuated
Carry out a roll call as soon as possible at the designated assembly point(s), and/or receive reports from wardens designated to ‘sweep’ the premises. You should note any people who are unaccounted for.
In a real evacuation this information will need to be passed to the fire and rescue service on arrival.
Check That People Have Assembled at the Evacuation Point
Once the roll call is complete or all reports have been received, allow people to return to the building. If the fire warning system is monitored inform the alarm receiving centre that the drill has now been completed and record the outcomes of the drill.
In premises where residents may not be fully aware of what is happening (due to age, or mental impairment) then staff will have to act on their behalf. It is also possible that some residents will wander away from the assembly point and this should be monitored, and if possible controlled.
Monitoring and Debrief
Throughout the drill the responsible person and nominated observers should pay particular attention to:
- Difficulties in moving, or the time taken to move, non- or semi-ambulant residents.
- Communication difficulties with regard to the roll call and establishing that everyone is accounted for.
- The use of the nearest available escape routes as opposed to common circulation routes.
- Difficulties with the opening of final exit doors.
- Difficulties experienced by people with disabilities.
- The roles of specified people, e.g. fire wardens.
- Inappropriate actions, e.g. stopping to collect personal items, attempting to use lifts, etc.
- Windows and doors not being closed as people leave.
On-the-spot debriefs are useful to discuss the fire drill, encouraging feedback from everybody.
Later, reports from fire wardens and observations from people should be collated and reviewed. Any conclusions and remedial actions should be recorded and implemented.