Fire drills

Departmental heads are required to arrange, or delegate a responsible person to arrange, a practice fire drill to be carried out at least annually. If the department has a high staff or student turnover there may be the need to carry out a drill more often. The possible need for more frequent fire drills should be discussed with the University Safety Office.

Initiation of the drill must be by operating a break glass unit using the relevant test key facility.

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, are required to remain with particular equipment, processes or operations that cannot be shut down or abandoned.

Advance warning of the drill to all occupants is recommended. It may not be beneficial to arrange a drill without warning, as the problems introduced may outweigh the benefits. An unannounced drill could also result in the unwanted attendance of the fire and rescue service.

If the particular fire alarm system is monitored, the University Security Services (or other alarm receiving centre) must be informed beforehand that a fire drill is about to take place.

For buildings 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 situation should be arranged not by locking or barring doors, or using physical barriers, but by locating a designated person at a suitable point on an exit route. The benefit of this scenario is to encourage individuals to use alternative escape routes, which they may not normally use.

Every opportunity should be taken to learn lessons from any fire drill. The appointment of persons to observe the evacuation of the building may help to highlight any areas of concern and identify any failings. Also all persons participating should be asked to report any problems encountered during the exercise. For example, alarm audibility, obstructed escape routes, congestion, poor signage, any problems with opening final exit doors and any difficulties experienced by people with disabilities.

Details of all fire drills should be recorded in a log book or other suitable record, and should be available for inspection. Details should include the time and date of the exercise, the time taken to achieve a full evacuation, the problems encountered, and the action taken to rectify such problems.


May 2007