My experience from having prepared over 1,300 fire risk assessments – is that many otherwise well organized organizations fail to prepare and rehearse a comprehensive Emergency Plan.
How many of your customers are avoiding the issue, probably because it is something they prefer to ignore! Most people would rather be considering more positive things like ways of building the business than facing up to potential disasters that could befall it! But surely, better this than to have to work by the of the pants on the day a crisis strikes or worst still have to explain their actions (or lack of them) to enforcement authorities after!
Your client also needs to think about their organizations reputation with daily reports in the press detailing incidents and prosecutions. Consider the situation where my elderly mother and her best friend evacuated through the rear fire escape into a side road from a well known department store when the fire alarm sounded. The doors closed behind them and the alarm was quickly silenced. They found themselves locked out, alone in a back road left to walk for a half mile around the building to get back to civilization! Or my wheelchair bound friend who when shopping in a major high street retailer was left to her own devices by staff who evacuated and left her behind on a mezzanine floor after a power cut occurred! Luckily these were minor incidents, but do you think my mum, her friend and my disabled friend and their families have good things to tell people about those retailers?
As you can see, fire is just one aspect of disaster contingency planning, many other incidents can befall the organization ranging from power outages to flooding through to civil disorder and ultimately to acts of terrorism. We encourage our clients to use the fire emergency planning process to prepare for other crises.
None of us have a crystal ball to foresee such events but we can through our training programmes guide Building Managers into putting into place some simple and low cost general mitigation measures. All of this can be initiated through comprehensive fire training that captivates Fire Wardens and staff who learn to appreciate the importance of prompt evacuation, rapid accounting and welfare of occupants.
Contingency planning and preparation need not be expensive, I have introduced popular in-situ half day combined Fire Manager, Fire Warden and Staff Fire Awareness training package for small businesses which includes a review of their fire precautions. Allowing for staff turnover and people tending to forget quickly, we recommend that training is followed up with a refresher at 12-18 month intervals.
I believe that if you provide fire training, it needs to be both enthralling and educational to hold the attendees attention. We must also consider in the training programme other emergencies and give general advice on how to prepare for them. It should also provide an insight into home fire precautions as this is where a fire will most likely start.
The UK Fire Association has created a Fire Warden Trainers register where members that have appropriate training, experience and adequate professional indemnity insurance can promote themselves to consumers and to undertake subcontract work with other fire trade companies. If you are interested in fire training but do not have the experience the UKFA can provide comprehensive training and support documentation to get you started.
For more information contact the author Alan Palmer at