Among the various hazards that can happen in an office building, fire is probably the most devastating and life threatening. A seemingly small flame can quickly spiral out of control and engulf an entire building if it’s not quickly extinguished. In some of the most dramatic situations, emergency evacuation of the staff might be warranted, and HR departments and health and safety staff need to be well prepared for this scenario. Actual fire evacuation doesn’t happen very often, but when it does it’s absolutely necessary that it unfolds exactly according to a detailed plan made with safety in mind.
This checklist of key safety factors can help you stay prepared for a fire emergency and protect the entire workforce from serious consequences:
1. Clearly marked exit routes
For a successful evacuation, it’s necessary to ensure that movement of people goes smoothly, without any bottlenecks forming. This can be accomplished by having ‘Fire exit’ markers positioned all along the evacuation route. Diagrams with the entire route outlined should be present in every office or at least on every floor, while locations of fire hydrants can optionally be included on them. Clearly marked route prevents employees from becoming confused and taking a wrong turn, and it also keeps everyone calm and focused on continuing forward. It’s just as important to keep a separate entrance open for the fire squad to come in unimpeded and fight the conflagration.
2. Accurate data about the staff
Evacuation must be comprehensive – it’s absolutely unacceptable to leave someone behind when there is a threat of fire within a building. However, knowing exactly how many people need to be extracted can be tricky in the excitement of the moment unless you can rely on a time and attendance solution to retrieve the full list quickly. Having this type of data in a central location allows for unified direction of the evacuation effort and can speed up rescue operations in case some of the employees fail to exit the building on their own. Since data can be stored in the cloud, it’s possible to access staff lists from outside the building or even after the power has been shut down.
3. Regular training for new employees
Fire drills are truly tedious, but they also save lives. Companies are mandated by law to train all employees about emergency measures in case of a fire, yet too often this task is done half-heartedly or skipped entirely. Training greatly reduces the risk of a panic and ensures everyone is familiar with the actions that must be undertaken when a fire occurs. Company management is legally responsible to instruct the employees about emergencies, and can be liable for significant sums in case of a major failure to comply. Thus, all sides should agree it’s in their best interest to keep rehearsing fire evacuation procedures every year, even if there are only a few employees that recently joined the team.
4. Smart sensors in high-risk locations
Every minute counts when you are trying to get people out of a burning building, so early detection of the problem can be decisive. Companies working with or storing flammable materials would be well advised to monitor critical areas with digital cameras and heat sensors that can raise an instant alarm in case of an accident. This is an inexpensive way of protecting the facility and the people who work there, increasing the chances that evacuation will begin promptly and be completed before the danger becomes too great. Data collected from the sensors can also be useful in determining the causes of the problem and preventing its re-occurrence in the future.