Fire Evacuation Procedures: Choosing an Assembly Point

Posted in Fire Safety Training Fire Wardens on 13 December 2016

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There is little point successfully evacuating your premises if your staff don’t have a safe place to congregate outside.

Choosing an appropriate assembly point is of paramount importance, and should be established immediately.

Choosing an Assembly Point

As part of our fire safety training blog, we will be exploring Fire evacuation procedures, specifically how to choose an assembly point that is ideal for you and your premises.

Why are fire assembly points important?

Fires are often high-stress situations, and some people will respond with panic.

Therefore, it’s essential that people are guided to a ‘gathering place’ to prevent them from scattering.

If people scatter, it will impact on the headcount and your nominal roll call, which may then result in emergency personnel making an unnecessary and dangerous trip back into the building.

8 Factors to Consider

There are many factors to consider when deciding on a suitable assembly point, as simply plucking a meeting point such “in the car park outside” could lead to great difficulties being encountered in a real fire scenario.

1. Size

It seems an obvious requirement, but the fire assembly point must be big enough to accommodate all staff. If your workplace is especially large, you may need more than one primary assembly point, especially if your premises has multiple exit points.

The main thing to remember is that the location of your assembly point will differ depending on the size and layout of your buildings, and where the escape route ends.

2. Access

For fire assembly points to serve their purpose they must be easily accessible and have an unobstructed pathway leading to them.

You must also try and consider any staff with mobility issues and assess how far they should be expected to travel, and try to make the journey as quick and convenient for them as possible.

3. Backup

If your assembly point is unable to be used on the day a fire strikes, it is vital that there are backup options available. This is to ensure that the fire safety procedures can still go ahead with minimal confusion.

4. Location

Large, wide and open areas are preferred for fire assembly points, but they should not be located where they may hinder the arrival of the emergency services e.g. driveways or car parks.

Ensure that the assembly point is well-lit, well-signposted and with no dead ends.

5. Distance

The assembly point should be a suitable safe distance away from the building, far enough away to be clear of any possible smoke or heat being generated from the building.

Too close to the building could mean your staff being affected by heat, smoke and falling debris, they could also be in the collapse zone should the building fall down.

6. Other dangers

Don’t automatically assume your are clear of danger once you have left the afflicted building.

Check for any hazards outside of the premises, such as vehicular movements and any other foreseeable risks, and make sure your staff are aware of these potential hazards.

7. Inform and advise

To ensure that evacuation can run smoothly during both fire drills and actual fires, your employees need to be fully aware of the fire evacuation procedures, and also the locations of the assembly point and backup assembly points.

Ensure that any new staff have been informed of the procedures and assembly points when they begin their job.

8. Fire Wardens

A step you cannot afford to miss is to appoint a suitable number of fire wardens for the size and type of building that you occupy.

An example would be one per floor, with deputies to provide resilience in times of absence.

Nominated fire wardens will need to attend formal fire warden training courses providing enhanced training in the management of fire safety, evacuation procedures and the use of portable fire extinguishers.

Fire Wardens will be responsible for leading evacuation procedures and liaising with the emergency services.

Are You Prepared For an Emergency?

Fire can strike at any moment, so you need to ask yourself; are you prepared for an emergency?

How to carefully select an appropriate fire assembly point is just one element of the evacuation procedure.

These procedures are essential for any business or premises, and are crucial for saving the lives of employees and visitors, helping to minimise confusion and evacuate everyone in a safe and timely fashion.

Fire Evacuation Procedure: 6 Things to Consider

Consequently, it’s vital that you have a well thought out fire evacuation procedure in place, in addition to considering several other important points.

Here are 6 things to consider about your fire evacuation procedure:

  • 1. Identify potential dangers
  • 2. Assign responsibility
  • 3. Perform regular fire drills
  • 4. Ensure escape routes are unobstructed
  • 5. Choose appropriate fire assembly points
  • 6. Keep everyone informed

1. Identify potential dangers

Familiarise yourself with your premises, noting any areas that could be high risk for fire breakouts e.g. areas with a high concentration of flammable materials, or kitchen areas.

Make sure that your staff also know how to spot and be aware of potentially hazardous situations. This knowledge can be gained through training programs, which are offered by many reliable fire safety specialists, including Fire Action.

2. Assign responsibility

The role of fire wardens is of extreme importance, as these people will perform essential tasks in the event of a fire, and will also promote fire safety within the company.

The fire safety warden role should be taken on by trustworthy and reliable people, as they will be the key figures who will lead the fire evacuation procedure.

Some of the tasks performed by fire safety wardens include; assessing fire risks, implementing the safe evacuation of a premises, reporting any hazards spotted, communicating with the emergency service and using fire safety equipment if necessary.

Fire wardens must receive appropriate training which can be delivered by specialists such as Fire Action.

3. Perform regular fire drills

Practice makes perfect. During an actual emergency situation, panic can take over, reducing people’s ability to think clearly and rationally. Therefore it’s critical that your employees have gained some practice performing the evacuation procedure so that it can run as smoothly as possible in the event of a real fire.

Fire drills should be performed at least once a year, but it’s advisable to perform them more regularly to ensure faultless evacuation in a fire situation. Fire drills should cater for all employees, including those on night shifts, so it’s vital that these people are included in a fire drill too.

In addition to the fire drills, test the fire bell each week to check that it’s still effective.

4. Ensure escape routes are unobstructed

The criteria of an escape route is that it should be obstruction free and should be able to get both able-bodied and disabled persons safely out of the building in the shortest possible time.

Planning a route should be done carefully and with consideration regarding the layout of the building, the number of employees on each floor, and the position of the fire assembly points. Escape routes should always be completely “sterile”, with no flammable materials, photocopiers, and other hazardous equipment located along their lengths.

5. Choose appropriate fire assembly points

In last month’s article, we took an in depth look at how to choose the best location for your premises’ fire assembly point.

As we discussed, various factors need to be considered including; size of your premises, access to the assembly point, distance from the building, other potential dangers, and the role of fire wardens in relation to fire assembly points.

6. Keep everyone informed

All staff should be informed of the current fire evacuation procedures and assembly points, and also about any future changes to them, should they arise. To keep visitors in the loop, information boards should also be posted that display the fire assembly points, along with clear signage to indicate fire exits.

Prepare your premises for any eventuality by calling in the specialists at Fire Action.

Our team provide comprehensive services, including provision and installation of essential fire and general safety equipment, in addition to fire safety training courses.

If you’re in the South East region and looking to enhance the fire safety of your premises, give us a call today and we’d be happy to help.

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