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In the event of a fire, time is of the essence. Fire spreads quickly, and in the blink of an eye, rooms can become engulfed in smoke and flames. As a business leader, you must quickly and safely evacuate your employees from your building, using a well-crafted fire evacuation plan that you and your crisis management team practice regularly.
There are numerous hazards from a fire, including smoke, which blocks vision, stings eyes and causes asphyxiation; heat, which can reach up to 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit and causes both external and internal burns; and poisonous gases from burning items, which can cause disorientation, drowsiness and other harmful symptoms. Your safety depends completely on advanced planning – so if you don’t already have a fire evacuation plan in place, start working on one immediately.
Establish a Crisis Management Team and Fire Escape Routes
If you haven’t already established a crisis management team, now is the time to do so. Choose select members from your employees who you can trust to organize, maintain and update your crisis management plans and to utilize your emergency notification systems. These employees are responsible for overseeing the evacuation and the safety of your employees as they escape from the building.
Additionally, your fire evacuation plan relies on the establishment of a fire escape route (with alternatives) from every floor of the building. Work with your property managers to determine the best routes in the building. Plan for blocked stairwells, loss of electricity and more – once you’ve established these plans, make sure that your crisis management team members are familiar with this information, as they’ll be responsible for leading your employees to safety. It’s also important to note that evacuation routes should not include the use of elevators, as they will most likely be recalled to the first floor of the building and will be inoperable in the event of a fire.
There’s a Fire in My Building – What Do I Do First?
If someone in your building spots a fire, they should activate the nearest fire alarm and immediately call 911 – after which, they should then contact the nearest member of your crisis management team to inform them of the emergency as soon as possible. The crisis team member should then contact the team leader, who should send out an emergency message to all employees, explaining that there is a confirmed fire in the building and that everyone must evacuate to the pre-designated, safe evacuation area.
Working with Your Crisis Management Team
After informing all employees to evacuate the building, your crisis management team members must organize the evacuation. In your fire evacuation plan, each member of the crisis team should be assigned a designated area to cover (e.g. the first and second floors, or the cafeteria and break room area), and these members should be prepared to lead employees in this designated area through the fire escape route to safety.
For instance, if your fire evacuation plan details an escape route that directs your employees to the stairwell, the crisis management team member on that floor should first ensure that the stairwell is safe and smoke-free prior to leading employees onward. If there is smoke – or if a doorknob is hot (meaning the fire has spread to the next room) – crisis team members are responsible for leading employees to alternate routes.
After employees have evacuated the office, crisis team members should return to their designated areas to ensure that all employees have been evacuated (for instance, someone may be injured or may have missed the emergency notification message). Crisis management team members should do a sweep of their designated areas and utilize a visual system to signify that each room has been checked and that it is cleared – this should be described in your fire evacuation plan prior to any emergency, so that all team members are on the same page. This visual system can be anything from placing a sticky note on each door to either opening or shutting doors so that other team members know that the rooms are clear.
Crisis management team members should be sure to check any bathrooms, closets and communal areas in each designated location prior to leaving the building. If a team member doesn’t see anyone during this sweep, they should take note of this information and report it to the crisis leader. If someone is missing, however, team members should reconcile that list and report it to the crisis team leader at the evacuation area, so you can better determine the status of any missing/injured individuals. fire fighting water pump