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Fire & Water - Cleanup & Restoration

Fire Drill Tips for Management

11/27/2020 (Permalink)

White wall with exit sign over door. Are your office's fire drills as effective as they need to be? (Photo by Michael Jasmund)

Most businesses are required by OSHA and fire department codes to conduct regular fire safety drills. And most employees have grown to hate these interruptions on a personal level. A team that would never mind gathering in the parking lot to discuss the latest bingeable series will despise the opportunity as soon as it’s mandated by a ringing alarm.

Maybe it’s because we all practiced them in school or maybe it’s because of the inferred condescension, but employees really hate fire drills. They’ve developed a reputation as a sort of juvenile exercises. Regardless, these are not just a pointless requirement but are genuinely important to the safety of your office.

We spoke to Peter Butler, a General Manager for a local Austin customer contact center, to find out how he helps keep fire drills effective.

  1. Take them seriously. “Your team won’t take it seriously if you don’t,” Peter told us, “Don’t warn your employees that a drill is coming, and don’t blow it off when it happens.”

  2. Prepare your team ahead of time. While Peter advises against giving your team advance notice of the drill, he does recommend occasionally reviewing the fire safety plan with your team.

    “You can do it in a team meeting. Make a little field trip out of it and walk everyone through the process. Physically walking everyone to the meeting spot is more memorable than pointing to a map.”

  3. Create a script for customer-facing roles. Many of the employees at the contact center Peter works for spend their days on the phone with customers. He provides his teams with a couple bullet points to explain that 1) due to a local emergency the call must be disconnected and 2) the customer should call back at their convenience for continued assistance.

    “Usually the customers can hear the fire alarm going off in the background, so they generally seem to understand the situation.”

The most important part of a fire drill is remembering why you’re doing it and whom you’re doing it for. You’re not just exiting a building to check off a box, but to ensure the safety of the people you’re responsible for. Keep that in mind and make each fire drill matter.

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