Every business needs working fire alarms to draw people’s attention to a possible emergency situation, together with a comprehensive and well understood evacuation procedure so that its staff and any visitors know exactly what they need to do in the event of a fire on the premises.
The primary function of any fire safety procedure is, of course, to give everyone the very best chance of exiting the building safely in the event of a fire.
However, it can be just as important to have a designated place for those people to head for when they get out, and to make sure that everyone knows where that place is.
Why is a fire assembly point important?
Quite apart from the basic fact that a company has a duty of care to anyone on its site, it is also a legal requirement under Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which states that “emergency routes and exits must lead as directly as possible to a place of safety”.
If you make sure that everyone heads for a specific place, it can be quickly established if anyone is missing. That will allow the emergency services to determine their priorities – i.e. whether they need to concentrate on rescuing someone potentially trapped in the building or putting out the fire.
However, once everyone has assembled, it is also important that they stay there. That will allow your fire marshals to give out further information as the situation develops, whether that means telling people when it is safe to return into the building, or if they need to retreat even further. Under no circumstances should people be allowed to leave the fire assembly point unless specifically instructed.
Choosing your fire assembly point
When it comes to choosing the location for your fire assembly point, there are a number of factors you need to take into consideration:
Is there enough room for everyone to gather? The location should be as large, wide and open as possible. In some bigger companies with large numbers of staff, it may be necessary to have multiple assembly points, in which case it is essential that each individual knows which point they need to head for, and that all assembly points meet all criteria.
Route for evacuees
Is there a quick and easy route out of the building and to the assembly point? For every department, the quickest and safest route, without obstructions, needs to be identified and clearly signposted. Bear in mind that particular care should be taken with anyone with mobility issues.
Is the assembly point far enough away from the building? The assembly point should be at least 50 feet away – that should be far enough away to be safe from the dangers of smoke inhalation, heat, falling debris and the possible collapse of the building.
Route for emergency services
Is there room for the emergency services to access the site? It’s vital that when people gather, they are not in the vicinity of site entrances where emergency vehicles may well be trying to get in at speed.