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It's important to hold regular fire drills to ensure your employees are prepared and know what to do should the alarm go off.

A UK-wide research survey by global insurer RSA (formerly Royal Sun Alliance) shows that a quarter of UK workers surveyed have never carried out a full fire evacuation of their workplace. This is contrary to government guidance which suggests that full fire drills are undertaken every year.

Of those businesses questioned:

  • one in 20 employees said their workplace had no marked fire exits at all
  • 6% said they would first grab a cup of tea or coffee on hearing a fire alarm, and then leave the building
  • 42% of people would retrieve personal belongings or work documents before evacuating
  • on average, employees waited 36 seconds before responding to an alarm

Generally, a building should be evacuated in 2.5 minutes. However, one-in-ten workers admitted that, upon hearing the alarm, they sit at their desks for over 1 minute before deciding to leave, regardless of whether they believe the alarm to be due to a real fire or not.

To keep your employees and business safe:

  • you should carry out a fire drill at least once a year
  • do not announce fire drills in advance (so you get a realistic idea of how people react/how effective your procedures are)
  • appoint someone as a fire safety marshal who will check that areas are evacuated and/or take a role call/register

Ensure that everyone knows:

  • how to raise the alarm if they discover a fire
  • how to contact the fire service
  • how and where to evacuate the building
  • where to assemble and who to report to

On hearing the alarm:

  • immediately evacuate to the assembly point via the nearest exit
  • follow any instructions given by your fire safety marshal
  • do not run
  • do not stop to collect personal belongings
  • do not open or touch a door beyond which you have reason to believe there is a fire
  • do not use the lift
  • do not return to the building until you have been told it is safe to do so

Additional guidance - Means of Escape

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