What Fire Drill Procedure Do You Need To Follow To Meet Australian Standards?
by: Alex Pericleous
Every business owner or facility manager has a responsibility under the state-based Occupational Health & Safety Legislation to keep their workplace safe and satisfy government regulations. You can effectively comply with these by developing and implementing emergency plans, including fire drills, in accordance with the Australian Standard (AS) 3745-2010.
Take note that there are significant differences between AS 3745-2002 and the recently revised AS 3745-2010. Many of the changes affect areas such as emergency planning and training. This is why organisations are strongly encouraged to consult the latest Australian Standard. It’s not compulsory but it’s considered as a best industry practice to follow these new safety recommendations.
The updated AS specifically requires an emergency response exercise training, including evacuation exercises and fire drills for the facility. Here are the highlights which you can use when establishing fire drill procedures or keeping them up-to-date.
Preparing an Emergency Plan
There should be an Emergency Planning Committee (EPC) tasked “to prepare, maintain and implement” an emergency plan. The new standard requires the EPC to include at least two members. One member should come from the management team and another should be competent enough to carry out tasks related to emergency response procedures and training. Think of the EPC as employees with the responsibility to generate the emergency plans. The committee should be capable enough to identify emergencies and include them in the plan and to effectively communicate with the Emergency Control Organisation (ECO).
The ECO is a crucial force during fire drill procedures since its members are tasked to implement the emergency plan in an emergency situation. Under the new Standard, property owners and managers can determine the number of their ECO members according to the number of occupants, size of the facility, safety features and installed safety system. As a minimum, however, AS 3745-2010 requires the ECO to include a Chief Warden or its equivalent. The EPC may also deem it important to add other members.
Implementing and Testing the Emergency Response Procedures
The initial implementation and test should take place within the first 12 months after the EPC has developed a workable and satisfactory set of emergency response procedures and the ECO has shown competence in implementing them. The EPC should also ensure that the emergency response exercises are consistent with the identified emergencies in the overall emergency plan. The first exercise should be an evacuation exercise.
Effective communication is key during this initial phase. Every occupant has to be notified that an evacuation exercise will take place on a specific date. Everyone, occupants and ECO members included, must participate in the evacuation exercise, which can be a fire drill.
Large facilities may conduct partial evacuation exercise to test the procedures. If necessary, the ECO can provide additional staff to assist during the initial evacuation. In less complex facilities, the exercise may be as simple as sounding the alarm, directing people to walk to a safe area and offering further guidance. You can gain a lot of insights from the first evacuation exercise, no matter how it ended. Make sure to apply what you have learned to subsequent exercises.
Developing Site-specific Emergency Response Exercises
Following the successful implementation of your emergency response procedures, the EPC should develop a program of emergency response exercises for a specific site. As always, evacuation exercises should be included. You can implement them as part of a partial emergency response exercise or a full exercise applicable to the entire facility. The type of exercises and the interval between each will depend on the size and form of your facility.
The EPC should also brief the ECO about the following:
- Location of the planned exercise
- Identity of the wardens (especially the chief warden)
- Type of alarm system installed
- Responses to the alarm signals
- Evacuation routes
- Emergency reporting methods
- Location of the assembly or safe areas
- Occupants exempted from the exercise
- Current temporary hazards
- Requirements to complete the exercise
Make sure that every occupant in an area or has participated in at least one exercise every year. The EPC may deem it necessary for some occupants to remain and excuse them from participating in the exercise. In such cases, the committee should notify the ECO about the exemption in writing. The ECO, in turn, should report to the chief warden the names of occupants exempted.
Debriefing the ECO and Other Key Participants
The chief warden should conduct a debriefing session right after an emergency response exercise. If an evacuation exercise has took place, make sure to review the observer’s checklist and report any insufficiencies to the EPC. The latter should take the initiative to modify the procedures, if necessary, and keep all ECO members informed of the changes.
An observer’s checklist should be completed for every facility where the exercise occurred. Make sure to include as many crucial points as you can in the checklist since discussions at the debriefing will be based on it.
Review your current emergency response procedures, including your Annual Trial Evacuation. Are they being implemented properly or in accordance with the new Standards? Make sure to use the Australian Standard 3745 – 2010 as a benchmark for reviewing your emergency plan.