The Merriam Agency has been serving Rescue Missions and Homeless Shelters since 1905. Speaking nationally, providing free consultation, and solving numerous problems, the Agency has earned the distinction of the exclusively endorsed strategic partner status since 2008.

The Importance of Fire Drills

The fire that occurred at The Station nightclub on Thursday, February 20, 2003, in West Warwick, Rhode Island, took the lives of 100 people in under 6 minutes. Most of those deaths were due to the smoke created.  The loss of life might have been avoided had the attendees known how to get out quickly.  Have you conducted a fire drill at your facility recently?

Before a fire drill is conducted, walk through your buildings and plan the best evacuation routes. Construct diagrams with those evacuation routes, and secure them to the wall closest to where those routes are going to be located.
Encourage people to frequently review the evacuation routes.
Fire drills should “regularly” be held at your facilities, especially in your residential and overnight locations.
You should determine how many drills are appropriate and conduct them as often as once per quarter.
Your first drill of each year could be pre-announced, but unannounced fire drills should also be conducted so as to see how your staff and residents respond. Time the drills to get an idea of how long it takes in order to clear everyone out.  Note any problems that were experienced such as aiding those who are handicapped in some way.
Evacuees should stand no closer than 100’ from the outside of the building so as to avoid falling debris and allow firefighters room to tend to the fire, in case one actually occurs.
Prepare a fire drill procedures manual and include such details as:

  • Who should do what if a fire alarm is pulled
  • What routes people should take during the evacuation
  • Where people should congregate following an evacuation
  • What information should be included in your incident report and who should complete it
  • To whom should the incident report be given
  • What should be done if someone pulls a false alarm
  • Instruct people to not re-enter the building until the Fire Marshall gives the all-clear to do so
  • Keep roadways, fire lanes, hydrants and walkways clear for emergency vehicles and crews to assist persons with disabilities in evacuating the building
  • Close the doors if you are the last person to leave
  • Leave the building by using the nearest exit; do not use elevators
  • If the alarm stops (alarms may not sound continuously), continue to evacuate
  • Warn others who may attempt to enter the building when the alarm is not sounding
  • If the corridors or stairways are filled with smoke, or are extremely hot, remain in your room and keep the doors tightly closed; go to the balcony or window to await rescue

Although it may not be possible to totally protect property and lives against catastrophic events, advance training and preparation may certainly help to minimize adverse outcomes.

Brian H. Merriam, CPCU, ARM, AAI
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