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A guide to workplace fire drills

What are the key things to be aware of when carrying out fire drills in the workplace? This guide has the essential information you need to be aware of…

Every business with staff or members of the public on the premises needs to carry out at least one fire drill per year and record the results.

This will be checked by your local fire safety and rescue authority which carries out checks to ensure that you have undertaken appropriate fire risk assessment and prevention measures.

Here are the key things to be aware of when planning and implementing fire drills in the workplace.

Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, the responsible person (i.e. anyone who has control of the premises) has a legal duty to provide procedures for serious and imminent danger (Article 15). They must support these procedures by providing appropriate training and instruction, which includes fire drills.

Step 1: Prepare a fire evacuation plan

Your plan must show the following things:

  • clearly marked escape routes that are as short and direct as possible

  • fire exits - enough for all people to escape

  • a safe meeting point for staff

  • Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans for anyone who cannot leave the building independently. Make sure arrangements are in place for people with accessibility needs such as hearing, mobility or vision impairment. For example, ensure there are people to help wheelchair users get downstairs if there’s a fire and that individuals with hearing loss will be alerted quickly if sound-only fire alarms are triggered.

Click here to download more guidance on making sure people with accessibility needs are able to escape quickly in the event of a fire.

Step 2: Staff training

It’s important that all staff are trained in the fire evacuation drill and aware of what to do and how to safely exit the premises, and where to meet.

It is also important that every team member understands what their role and responsibilities are in the event of a fire, particularly those with specific fire safety roles in an emergency and that there are appointed fire wardens or officers who have clarity over what responsibilities they have, including areas they are checking are evacuated, people they are checking have left the building, any safety measures relating to hazardous materials or people with PEEPs in place.

You will also need to ensure that there are processes in place to train new staff when they start work and tell all employees about any new fire risks.

Step 3: Risk assess the impact of the fire drill on the day it is due to take place

Ensure any equipment can be left safely

When planning the fire drill, it is vital to consider any equipment that may have to be left or shut down during the exercise and make sure this will not pose a health and safety risk.

Make a note of any staff who cannot take part in the drill – It isn’t always feasible due to particular roles or the nature of the workplace for all staff to take part in a fire drill. For example, employees working on safety-critical processes. This may mean holding more than one drill per year as you must rotate employees so they can participate at least annually.

Decide who you will inform in advance

Unannounced fire drills can be helpful as studies show that most people fail to leave the premises when a fire alarm is sounded and this can help you to train staff to act quickly in the event of a fire alarm.

However, if your risk assessment determines that an unannounced drill could cause panic and health and safety risks, for example, if you have lots of members of the public on-site, you may wish to announce the fire drill in advance.

A compromise can be to inform staff that a fire drill may take place in the weeks ahead but that they should always act as though this is a real fire situation as a safety precaution.

Those who have a specific role to play must be briefed on the details and told not to use firefighting equipment, such as extinguishers, during a fire drill.

Inform other relevant parties of the fire drill –

If the building is multi-occupied with different employers, it is important to coordinate with each other regarding fire drills.

It is also important to inform the fire service that you are carrying out a drill to avoid unnecessary callouts. If your fire alarm system is monitored you will also need to inform the monitoring company.

Check for any health and safety risks – Finally, check for any internal or external health and safety risks that could put people at harm during the fire drill, for example, weather hazards such as ice, or cleaning schedules which mean some floors will be slippery at the time of the drill.

Step 4: The day of the drill

Once the drill takes place, you need to ensure that processes are in place to record key outcomes.

Make a note of the outcomes you wish to achieve such as ensuring emergency doors open easily, emergency lighting is working well and the time it takes to evacuate the premises.

Ensure you have staff in place who are trained and equipped to accurately monitor and assess these outcomes of the fire drill exercise. They should also record any issues with fire doors or exits or individuals with PEEPs, and the time it takes to evacuate the premises.

Fire officers may need special equipment, depending on the workplace such as these emergency whistles.

Make sure that appointed staff carry out roll calls at the appropriate muster points and check timings.

STEP 5: Review and record

Then hold a debrief and ensure any issues such as blocked fire exits, slow evacuation times, etc are recorded along with the key outcomes. The observations and feedback from the drill should be recorded, collated and reviewed.

and any if any appropriate action is required, this should be carried out as soon as possible.

You must then keep the results as part of your fire safety and evacuation plan.

For more help and information you can download a full Workplace Fire Safety Guide here:

You can also see guidance and helpful products and information in the Fire Safety section of our brochure on page 121:

As always our team are happy to help you find the right solutions for your workplace. Contact us at or call 01726 74264.


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