Emergency Plan

Emergency and Contingency Planning

When the fire alarm sounds, everyone in the building should immediately follow the fire action plan.

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Your emergency plan should be appropriate to your building, well publicised and should consider:

  • How people will be warned if there is a fire
  • What staff/residents should do if they discover a fire
  • How the evacuation of the premises should be carried out
  • Individual needs/risks relating to individual residents
  • Identification and use of protected areas for horizontal evacuation
  • Procedures for a ‘delayed evacuation’ response
  • Where people should assemble after they have left the premises and procedures for checking whether the premises have been evacuated
  • Identification of key escape routes, how people can gain access to them and escape from them to a place of total safety
  • Arrangements for fighting fire
  • The duties and identity of staff who have specific responsibilities if there is a fire
  • Arrangements for the safe evacuation of people identified as being especially at risk, such as residents and others with disabilities, children and people working alone
  • Any machines/processes/appliances/power supplies that need to be stopped or isolated if there is a fire
  • Specific arrangements, if necessary, for high-fire-risk areas
  • Contingency plans, such as restrictions on the use of the building for when life safety systems, such as evacuation lifts, fire detection and warning systems, sprinklers or smoke control systems are out of order
  • How the fire and rescue service and any other necessary services will be called and who will be responsible for doing this, and
  • Procedures for meeting the fire and rescue service on their arrival and notifying them of the locations of any remaining residents and of any special risks, e.g. the location of the fire, and any risks such as highly flammable materials

As part of your emergency plan it is good practice to prepare post-incident plans for dealing with situations that might arise, such as those involving:

  • People with personal belonging (especially valuables) still in the building
  • People in a state of undress
  • Getting people away from the building (e.g. to transport)
  • Arranging alternative accommodation; and
  • Inclement weather

For further guidance on emergency planning refer to:

1. Single stage evacuation

This strategy is appropriate for residents and others who fall predominantly into the ‘independent’ category, where it may reasonably be expected that all people in the building are able to (and will) evacuate immediately from the premises to a place of total safety without assistance.  This is the simplest evacuation strategy used in single private dwellings, in small buildings or where structural fire resistance cannot be confirmed or does not support any other type of evacuation strategy.

2. Phased evacuation

Large buildings may use a phased evacuation system of evacuation in which different parts of the premises are evacuated in a controlled sequence of phases, those parts of the premises expected to be at greatest risk being evacuated first.  A phased evacuation will normally require at least a two-stage alarm system (full alarm for the zone where the fire is located, pre-alert for the neighbouring zones).

3. Progressive horizontal evacuation

This strategy is likely to be necessary where the residents are dependent on staff to assist with their escape (e.g. residential care homes, hospitals etc).  It works on the principle of moving residents from an area affected by fire, through a fire resisting barrier to an adjoining fire protected area on the same level, where they can wait in a place of safety whilst the fire is dealt with, or await further evacuation down a protected route to total safety.

4. Delayed (stay-put) evacuation

In residential blocks of flats where the level of compartmentation means there will be a low risk of fire spreading beyond its unit of origin or in some situations it may not be desirable or practical to evacuate some residents immediately (e.g. because of medical conditions or treatments).

In these circumstances only the zone or flat affected by fire would evacuate and other zones or residents it may be appropriate to allow them to remain in their property or rooms whilst the fire is dealt with and the danger has passed, or to allow for the additional time necessary to prepare them for evacuation.  In such circumstances, it will be necessary to provide enhanced levels of structural fire protection to the flat or individual bedroom.  However, where this strategy has been adopted, a suitable evacuation plan will still be required.

If in the rare case that the fire spreads beyond the original fire compartment (to a neighbouring floor or flat), then the strategy may need to change to a phased or full evacuation strategy.

When considering your evacuation strategy you also ensure that your escape routes are:

  • Suitable
  • Easily, safely and immediately usable at all relevant times
  • Adequate for the number of people likely to use them
  • Usable without passing through doors requiring a key or code to unlock
  • Free from any obstructions, slip or trip hazards
  • Well-lit by normal or emergency escape lighting; and
  • Available for access by the emergency services

Ideally all doors on escape routes should open in the direction of escape.  This is particularly important if more than 60 people use them or they provide an exit from an area of high fire risk.

You should not depend upon the fire and rescue service to evacuate people, and an escape strategy must be dependent only on the factors that are within your own control.  Whichever system of evacuation you use, it must be supported by suitable fire risk assessment and management arrangements.