Having served as a professional firefighter, we used to place ourselves in harm’s way during emergencies but this was not a mindless act. In order to perform to a high standard during incidents, which would render the lay person maybe not as effective, we rehearsed, drilled and practiced different scenarios to ensure that when we were needed, we were not only there but we were professional in every single way. Our decision making is based on, “recognition primed decision making” (Gary Klien 1998).
So should a business be any different?
In many instances, our first line of defence will always be your employees and like the fire service they should be prepared. In many case we can achieve this by training our staff professionally, not only as a one off, but repeatedly, so that a positive reaction becomes second nature, “recognition primed decision making” (Gary Klien 1998).
Fire Wardens are essential to the implementation of an evacuation plan and its success. They are the people who will organise others to leave the building in a safe speedy manner, guiding them and reassuring those who are not sure of what to do, providing assistance to those unable to assist themselves. They will ensure that their area of responsibility is cleared and swept of staff and visitors, shutting windows and closing fire doors, before leaving themselves to then liaise with the fire service once they arrive at the scene. Remember, this is the legal duty and obligation of building owners and occupiers to ensure the safe evacuation of people from the premises, not the Fire Service
But their importance lies not only at the time of the incident. A suitably trained Fire Warden takes responsibility for their area of work, ensuring that fire escape routes are kept clear, fire doors are unobstructed, undamaged and work correctly, fire-fighting equipment is in place and in good working order, and ensuring that staff in that area are familiar with the evacuation procedure.
They should ensure that where defects are identified, they are correctly reported and actioned upon. They take responsibility for the safety of all those who enter their area of work. It is an extremely important role, one that should not be taken lightly, and it is imperative that they receive assistance from others, and support from management. Investment in fire protection, including the provision of professional training, is vital to the success of the Fire Warden.
A correctly prepared Evacuation Plan should allow for Fire Wardens throughout the building, the number being determined by the size of the premises, and the risks within. We should appoint Fire Wardens from those staff who are based within the building the majority of the time, but don’t forget to appoint a deputy, for when the Fire Warden is absent on holiday or on sick leave.
Periodic evacuation practices should be carried out and recorded, with any issues documented and addressed accordingly. This will help make sure in the real event of an emergency evacuation the plan will work successfully and all involved will be safe.
We train hoping that Fire Wardens will not be utilised, but, if they are, we hope that they will be professional and effective. Therefore, we need to appreciate their importance. Fire Wardens are essential.
Visit the Fire Safety Training area of our website information on our fire warden training courses.
- Gary A. Klein, (1998) “Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions”, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass, pp. 1-30.