Fire Evacuation and Emergency Planning Arrangements

You have a responsibility to protect against a high life risk in your establishment at times of emergency.  Therefore, your emergency fire planning and procedures should be comprehensive, workable, well practiced and understood by all staff. Your task is made more difficult when dealing with young children and babies or elderly and possibly immobile adults. 

If you were to have a fire related incident at your site, there is a very good chance that the property would be full of smoke. Think how difficult it would be to find a young child, for example, in your premises when you are blindfolded. Add to that the fact that you cannot breath and the child is not making a sound; every second counts for the child’s survival. This is the situation you must plan for and it is important to remember that the people who come to your aide may never have seen your premises in daylight, never mind in a blackout.

Guidance for Arrangements
Raise the alarm. 
Evacuate everyone and send them to the well signed assembly point set out in your policies and procedures. Evacuees must remain there until their details have been recorded. The assembly point should not be in a confined area such as a fenced garden.
Dial 999 ask for the fire service. Give the name, address and post code of the premises and the nature of the incident. Fire crews are now mobilised; if you cannot accurately account for everyone, tell the fire service that “this is a person’s reported incident”. Once the fire service receives this coded message, they will mobilise additional search and rescue resources to the incident.
All records and registers detailing who was on the premises at the time of the incident should be taken out of the building by a designated person.  Crucially, these should be accurate and updated records including the visitors’ book. This demonstrates the importance of the need for visitor procedures, such as signing in and out, to be followed accurately. We don’t want rescue crews risking their lives searching for someone who has left the building. 
You should have an emergency fire card to give to the emergency services on their arrival. You cannot always rely on the local fire crew who are familiar with your establishment to be mobilised to your premises. The card should be loose, not attached to a wall and easily accessible near the exit.

The Emergency Fire Card should include;
A map of the premises
The location of cut off points for gas and electricity
The location of stored flammable substances
The location of the nearest fire hydrant point to save the fire service valuable time in locating a water supply. Fire hydrants are located in the road and usually have the letters FH on the manhole cover. They may also identified by a letter H on a wall or post, this indicates the distance from the sign. This is particularly important in the winter months when there is a covering of snow on the ground.

Example Map of Premises

In the case of a Bomb, Gas Leak, Flood or any other Emergency, the evacuation procedure will be the same as that for fire evacuation. In the case of a suspected gas leak, no electrical switches should be operated as this may create a spark igniting the escaped gas. Staff need to be aware of the meeting/assembly point for each separate occurrence as they may be different.

Getting Out
Remember, there is only one safe place in a fire situation and that is the open air.
Before opening a door once the alarm has been raised, feel the handle with the back of your hand and feel the surface of the door up to the top. If it’s hot do not open it. If the door is cool, open it slightly to see if it is safe to go out and leave, but make sure you close the door behind you.
When you go to the assembly point, make it very clear to a responsible person which area you left from and whether everyone is evacuated from that area.
If the door or handle is hot, the other side of the door will probably not support life. Do not open the door. A fire door should maintain its integrity for at least 30 minutes to an hour. You should seal around the door with wet towels or other materials. Everyone should have some wet material to place over their mouth and nose to filter the products of combustion from the air, should the room be smoke logged. Use any means necessary to wet the material. Sit tight and await rescue.

Emergency Refuge
If the emergency results in your establishment being unsafe to re-enter, arrangements should already be in place to move children/adults to a safe refuge away from danger and offering protection from the elements.
Your staff should be able to quote accurately, and without hesitation, your emergency procedures when questioned or it could be suggested that you are operating an unsafe establishment. Therefore, regular training/testing should be undertaken.

Author- Ray Wrigglesworth (Grad I Fire E)
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