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desertwellie  
#1 Posted : 16 December 2015 09:47:22(UTC)
Rank: Forum user
desertwellie

Hi all.

During a recent fire training course, we were advised that advanced warning of fire drills are now recommended due to a case where a woman successfully sued her employer after being injured while evacuating during an unannounced drill.

I have carried out the obligatory Google search, and cannot find any factual evidence on this case. Can anyone shed any light on this?

I know that in the fire guides it states that:

'When carrying out the drill you might find it helpful to:
• circulate details concerning the drill and inform all people of their duty to participate. It may not be beneficial to have ‘surprise drills’ as the health and safety risks introduced may outweigh the benefits'

...but what stance are you taking in your industries?

Thanks.
Invictus  
#2 Posted : 16 December 2015 09:56:24(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
Invictus

The world has gone mad!
RayRapp  
#3 Posted : 16 December 2015 10:06:22(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
RayRapp

Something similar has been discussed recently on this forum. I'm not sure if the case is real or just another urban myth. Whatever the outcome, I for one think it's nonsense to suggest unannounced fire drills are too risky. Sure, there is some risk, but that is the whole point of the exercise!

At the other end of the spectrum is announced fire drills. They have their place in the grand scheme of things, however they cannot be anything like the real thing. The purpose of unannounced fire drills is to thoroughly test your systems and processes in order to ensure if it was a real emergency people are properly prepared for it.

Finally, so one person may or may not have been injured and may have made a claim. We do not know the circumstances so little point in making anything of it. Anyway one person out of how many tens of thousands of people who participate in fire drills...surprised it's not more.
Gary w  
#4 Posted : 16 December 2015 10:32:22(UTC)
Rank: New forum user
Gary w

As per last post. Drills (both announced and unannounced) are intended to test the systems the organisation has put in place. Just like any other activity a suitable and sufficient risk assessment needs to be in place e.g. Emergency preparedness. The fact that it is being stated (alleged) that an individual suffered an injury is not a reason to purely rely on announced drills.
jay  
#5 Posted : 16 December 2015 11:26:59(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
jay

I cannot see how one can be successful in such a claim, if it is true, only based on the fact that it was an unannounced drill--surely, a slip, trip & fall may occur if the evacuation route that is not routinely used has such hazards.

Conversely, if due to the surprise drill, equipment/systems could not be safely shut down and directly contributed to the injury & claim ( i.e. no risk assessment on the impact of the surprise drill in a factory/similar setting) then there is a possibility of the claim being successful.

Sometimes, insurers find it cheaper not to contest claims too much--therefore someone being "successful" need not be a legal precedent in Civil Law claims.

We used to have announced drills, primarily for operational reasons, but senior management agreed that the downtime was insignificant and there was nothing safety critical that prevented us from doing unannounced drills. The problem with announced drills is that the reaction of occupants is not realistic.
desertwellie  
#6 Posted : 16 December 2015 11:50:05(UTC)
Rank: Forum user
desertwellie

Thanks all...You are all saying exactly what I am thinking, however, if anyone does know the relevant case in hand, that would be useful?
chris42  
#7 Posted : 16 December 2015 11:55:57(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
chris42

You should ask the training provider that told you this. If they told you this, they should know the case they are referring to.

Chris
pl53  
#8 Posted : 16 December 2015 12:09:13(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
pl53

Safe access and egress. If you can't provide that you are negligent.
RayRapp  
#9 Posted : 16 December 2015 12:28:11(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
RayRapp

PL53 wrote:
Safe access and egress. If you can't provide that you are negligent.


With respect, what does 'safe access and egress' mean. We are talking about fire drills, not quoting chapter and verse the OLA 1957 as amended.

I am fully conversant with the tort of negligence and making a successful claim is not as easy as some people seem to think.
A Kurdziel  
#10 Posted : 16 December 2015 14:42:35(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
A Kurdziel

This smells like an urban myth or even something that happened in the US rather than here. If something like this did happen, then I can’t see how that fact there was an unannounced fire drill caused the fall. Surely it was down to the inadequacy of the traffic routes being used, which could happen whether or not here was a fie drill with or without a prior warning. I would argue that an unannounced fire drill is a better test of the system than an announced drill.
sadlass  
#11 Posted : 16 December 2015 14:59:16(UTC)
Rank: Forum user
sadlass

Announced drill is for training and practice purposes.
Unannounced drill is to test that it's working.

Better use could be made of proper 'dry run' drills to help instill proper behaviours. If it doesn't go well, repeat until it does.

There is a tiny additional risk - the more times you go down stairs, the more you are exposed to the slip or stumble potential. Assuming that there is no actual additional hazard (poor lighting, damaged stairs, debris) this is an acceptable trade-off for improved fire safety for all. By managing fire drill practises in a controlled way, this reduces that tiny increased risk anyway.
pl53  
#12 Posted : 17 December 2015 07:33:47(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
pl53

It means making sure that people can get in and out of their place of work safely whatever the circumstance. The fact that it is a fire evacuation is irrelevant. If you haven't got a safe way of getting in and out, whether controlled physically or by procedures, then you are negligent.
imponderabilius  
#13 Posted : 17 December 2015 09:08:42(UTC)
Rank: Forum user
imponderabilius

All companies I've worked for so far would announce fire drills. The reason was always the same: it's an exercise and we shouldn't introduce additional hazards if the emergency is not real.
In my current company it is especially important as it involves evacuation of vessel crews during docking in the harbour, so unannounced drills would cause real problems.
Invictus  
#14 Posted : 17 December 2015 09:15:53(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
Invictus

There are always going to exceptions due to the added risk that you would announce the fire evacuation to take place.
When you go on cruise the first thing they do is test the procedure with all passengers, but they don't expect you to run around shouting woman and children first, then jump to a life craft.

The idea is to look at reaction times and how quickly the building is cleared, how procedures are followed etc. We do not announce because we need to know how employees are assisting those in need. If you always announce then people react differently so you never get the true picture.
stevie40  
#15 Posted : 17 December 2015 11:01:31(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
stevie40

Wasn't there a recent case (overseas I believe) where an unnanounced terrorism drill resulted in a fatality as somebody jumped to their death in an effort to escape the perceived real threat?

Not aware of the case the OP alludes to but I can quite believe it. After all, it is an injury in the workplace, the fact that it is a drill does not remove any legal liabilities or duties.
JohnW  
#16 Posted : 17 December 2015 11:18:15(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
JohnW

sadlass wrote:
Announced drill is for training and practice purposes.
Unannounced drill is to test that it's working.


I am with sadlass on this. Your system should include both.

If you have revised your procedures, e.g. introduced sweeps or installed new fire doors etc., then do an Announced drill.

The next drill should be Unannounced to test that employees understand the current procedures and will comply with them in a real emergency.

My main customer has 10,000s litres or flammable material in tanks, there are hot processes, lots of electrics and machines. They have very good controls in place, training is comprehensive, so our Fire Risk Assessment concludes that the risk is 'Tolerable' - we only have Unannounced drills - the process of evacuation is not much different to shutdown at 5.00pm so the risks during a drill are not higher, we're not going to worry particularly about an accident during a drill, and as stevie says the fact that it is a drill does not remove any legal liabilities or duties.




David Bannister  
#17 Posted : 17 December 2015 11:55:49(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
David Bannister

On a slight tangent, consider the need for drills in the retail sector (and any other where large numbers of the public are present), particularly at this time of year.

One extreme opinion may be to carry out unannounced drills this week to accurately test the arrangements at the busiest time but I doubt that the major retailers would ever remotely consider this. Another opinion would be to carry out scheduled and announced drills pre-opening i.e. no need to worry about those nuisances the customers.

I have been assured that the stewards at Old Trafford are well trained and drilled, although I cannot recollect ever hearing that the stadium had been emptied during a match for a drill.

The point I am trying to make is that the decisions must be reasonable for the scenarios and risks presented. On one hand there is the desire to test systems whilst the additional risks created by carrying out those tests must be recognised and evaluated. It will be a management decision, subject to the glare of media, judiciary and public opinion (with 20/20 hindsight) if the worst happens.

Just like the decision in Los Angeles regarding schools emergency evacuation.
stevie40  
#18 Posted : 17 December 2015 12:03:16(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
stevie40

David - New Look 2007 fire evac prosecution being a classic example of how things go wrong.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/...gland/london/8379503.stm

lwthesm  
#19 Posted : 17 December 2015 12:10:55(UTC)
Rank: Forum user
lwthesm

We routinely carry out drills both announced and unannounced. The last one involved all staff and 1,200 members of the public. Unannounced. Everyone behaved impeccably because it had be practiced in the past and they all knew what to do.
A Kurdziel  
#20 Posted : 17 December 2015 12:17:18(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
A Kurdziel

Behind all of this is the myth that once there is an alarm people will panic and run around hysterically like they do in the Airplane movies. This is something that is perpetuated by the media, whose headlines always include “panic amongst passengers” and “chaotic evacuation scenes”. Then when we you read the article you realise that far from panicking people were almost in denial that anything was wrong and just stand there waiting for instructions or going on about their normal business and trying to pretend that nothing was happening.
Pre-announced emergency drills have a place but sometimes (especially if there is no public about) it is important to assess just what people will do: will the fire marshals turn up( with tabards and loudspeakers) will the place evacuate in the allotted time(including the CEO and his mates), and will people congregate at the assembly points rather than just in front to the building which is just where the fire brigade might wish to set up?
sutty  
#21 Posted : 22 December 2015 14:24:08(UTC)
Rank: Forum user
sutty

stevie40 wrote:
Wasn't there a recent case (overseas I believe) where an unnanounced terrorism drill resulted in a fatality as somebody jumped to their death in an effort to escape the perceived real threat?

Not aware of the case the OP alludes to but I can quite believe it. After all, it is an injury in the workplace, the fact that it is a drill does not remove any legal liabilities or duties.



A terrorism drill?? seems a little ambiguous. Possibly another urban myth.
Psycho  
#22 Posted : 22 December 2015 17:12:39(UTC)
Rank: Forum user
Psycho

Not Folklore

happened in a northwest school the claiment got £158.000 in an out of court settlement

http://www.itv.com/news/...in-compensation-in-2011/

and here

http://www.dailymail.co....tripping-wheelchair.html
ballyclover  
#23 Posted : 22 December 2015 18:49:18(UTC)
Rank: Forum user
ballyclover

I never inform staff of my intensions to carry out a fire drill. Previously when i did tell staff we would do it at say 11am, i found staff stood around 5 mins before, coats on and even stood by exits. There is no way this could replicate a real emergency or identify short comings

I do how plan them when i know it will not interfere with any important work, experiments which may cause real accidents
stevie40  
#24 Posted : 22 December 2015 19:42:15(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
stevie40

sutty wrote:
stevie40 wrote:
Wasn't there a recent case (overseas I believe) where an unnanounced terrorism drill resulted in a fatality as somebody jumped to their death in an effort to escape the perceived real threat?

Not aware of the case the OP alludes to but I can quite believe it. After all, it is an injury in the workplace, the fact that it is a drill does not remove any legal liabilities or duties.



A terrorism drill?? seems a little ambiguous. Possibly another urban myth.


Not an urban myth. In fact quite a tragic case and very recent too.
See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-34974333

"Kenya's police chief has warned universities not to carry out security drills without his approval following the death of a woman on Monday.

Esther Kidemba died after apparently jumping from a building during a drill at the private Strathmore University in the capital, Nairobi.

Gunshots were fired during the drill, causing panic on the campus. "
RayRapp  
#25 Posted : 22 December 2015 19:50:06(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
RayRapp

I am lost for words...except it's unbelievable anyone could be that irresponsible.

So, at least we got to the bottom of the person getting injured in a fire drill!!

Invictus  
#26 Posted : 23 December 2015 09:05:36(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
Invictus

I am still unsure what announcing the fire evacuation will achieve! The situation wasn't the fire drill it was mud on the path, the path would still of been muddy. I don't think she would of been running, no-one ever does even when they are unannounced.

The other one in South Africa, is amazing, good job they never played War of the Worlds!

I am still astounded at the pay out.
westonphil  
#27 Posted : 23 December 2015 12:33:00(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
westonphil

Invictus wrote:
I am still unsure what announcing the fire evacuation will achieve! The situation wasn't the fire drill it was mud on the path, the path would still of been muddy.


Quite correct but of course the person giving the original advice did not think that one through and would not be around to take responsibility for their poorly thought through advice. Fortunately in this world we do have some intelligent safety guys and gals who stop poor advice at source, i.e., they ask their colleagues what they think and generally get some sensible answers.

Regards
O'Donnell54548  
#28 Posted : 05 January 2016 14:29:49(UTC)
Rank: Forum user
O'Donnell54548

On the question of 'announced' or 'unannounced' fire drills. Ask yourself, do you have a policy that states that if an employee 'maliciously' sets off the fire alarm when there is not a fire, are they then subject to a charge of gross misconduct? If so, why? is it because they could be placing persons safety at risk?
If so, what is the difference when the Safety Officer sounds the alarm for a 'surprise' drill????
mssy  
#29 Posted : 05 January 2016 17:20:19(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
mssy

Originally Posted by: O' Go to Quoted Post
On the question of 'announced' or 'unannounced' fire drills. Ask yourself, do you have a policy that states that if an employee 'maliciously' sets off the fire alarm when there is not a fire, are they then subject to a charge of gross misconduct? If so, why? is it because they could be placing persons safety at risk?
If so, what is the difference when the Safety Officer sounds the alarm for a 'surprise' drill????


Blimey - what an incredible question!!

Because one party is acting on behalf of the Responsible Person (or similar person across the UK) and is aiming to test understanding of the fire safety arrangements. The unannounced nature of the drill would have been risk assessed to ensure the premises is suitable for this method of drill. Where fire alarms are monitored, they will be stood down for the drill. Observers will be appointed and all feedback collated to improve or change arrangements if required

The other party is maliciously and perhaps criminally operating the alarm to disrupt activities or some other non work, non safety reason.

I do not accept there is a significant risk when a group of well trained members of staff evacuate a low to medium risk premises. However, I do accept that where large numbers of the public are present, the risk of harm will be increased - and it is perhaps not appropriate to carry out non announced drills at these premises (as determined by a RA that I mentioned earlier).

I am not a huge fan of non announced drills, but to define them as being as careless and/or wreckless as a criminal or nefarious actuation is ridiculous
toe  
#30 Posted : 05 January 2016 22:42:15(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
toe

Originally Posted by: O' Go to Quoted Post
On the question of 'announced' or 'unannounced' fire drills. Ask yourself, do you have a policy that states that if an employee 'maliciously' sets off the fire alarm when there is not a fire, are they then subject to a charge of gross misconduct? If so, why? is it because they could be placing persons safety at risk?
If so, what is the difference when the Safety Officer sounds the alarm for a 'surprise' drill????


No - It is because they intentionally or recklessly interfered with something provided in the interest of Health and Safety.
O'Donnell54548  
#31 Posted : 06 January 2016 07:35:54(UTC)
Rank: Forum user
O'Donnell54548

My original question was meant as a point of debate, which had been raised we me in the past, and Toe got the answer absolutely right, one is a malicious act.
It is not a ridiculous question but a basis for carrying out a suitable risk assessment, as mssy quite rightly stated. However in my experience with ex-fire officers who have moved into H&S this is rarely carried out (even when one individual insisted on using 'smoke bombs' to make it more realistic).
There are advantages, and dis-advantages in both methods, and when I deliver training I outline both of these to the delegates so that they may make an informed decision on which is most appropriate in their situation.
Matthew Fisher  
#32 Posted : 06 January 2016 08:26:03(UTC)
Rank: Forum user
Matthew Fisher

My stance is that announced fire drills are not as beneficial as unannounced drills 90% of the time. Yes announced drills will still mean that people are getting chance to exit via the routes, hear the alarm etc. etc., but you are not going to get a true reflection on what would happen during an actual evacuation, i.e. evacuation times.

In the 'case' of this injury and subsequent law suit, I would suggest that if in fact this is true and actually occurred, they successfully sued, because escape routes etc. are designed to allow for quick and SAFE evacuation, so if she has been injured due to the design or layout of the escape, or obstructions etc. then the employer is failing in his duties to ensure a safe and obstruction free escape route, but obviously this is just an assumption that this may have been the case. Alternatively, was she injured because she didn't know how to evacuate and had not received any form of information or training on how to evacuate safely, if her lawyers were able to successfully argue that a lack of training was the cause of the incident, then this may answer why it was a successful claim.

IF people have received the sufficient training, information, and the escape routes etc. are as safe as they are supposed to be, then I see no controllable reason why someone should be injured during a drill, now obviously you are unable to 100% prevent and injury, but as long as you have done everything you are legally bound to do to ensure that injury is unlikely, you are safe from a successful legal case against you.
IanC9139  
#33 Posted : 06 January 2016 13:27:48(UTC)
Rank: Forum user
IanC9139

I have never done an announced drill as emergencies as they do not give a true reading of the effectiveness of the procedure.
That said, I have done one where we did notify those with PEEPS of the intention and what to do - we would prewarn them no more than 5 minutes before hand and the fire marshals also advised accordingly.

We could do that because we knew the procedure was robust and we wanted to ensure it remained that way.

If someone has got hurt, perhaps the training needs re-examining.
Zyggy  
#34 Posted : 06 January 2016 16:18:50(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
Zyggy

The debate about whether to announce a drill or not is hugely dependent on the particular environment & what "works" in one industry or place may not suit another.

For places where there are no particular issues, I tend to advise on a compromise solution, i.e. announce a day when the drill is to take place, but not the time.
imponderabilius  
#35 Posted : 06 January 2016 16:35:46(UTC)
Rank: Forum user
imponderabilius

As an alternative, you can consider announcing fire drill let's say on Friday sometime between 9 and 12am. This will prepare the staff but won't allow them to stand at the muster point before they even hear the alarm.
O'Donnell54548  
#36 Posted : 13 January 2016 09:54:50(UTC)
Rank: Forum user
O'Donnell54548

I am very much of the opinion that if your drills are 'announced' or 'unannounced' is done to individual circumstances.
However it is interesting that those who are in favour of unannounced drills cite the main reason for this as it means it is more 'realistic', but then say that they would carry out these drills at convenient times. No drills which may have an adverse effect on production, or during a senior managers important meeting, or in inclement weather, because as we all know a fire would never occur at these times?
RayRapp  
#37 Posted : 13 January 2016 10:45:46(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
RayRapp

It is really about being sensible, what may work for one may not for another. Doing a fire drill when it's chucking down with rain and all the staff are getting soaking wet at the muster point will not win you any friends.

Following a fire drill there should be a (hot) debrief with key personnel to identify if there are any issues to contend with. If so, these may have an influence on the type and timing of the next fire drill. Every day is a school day - I'm told.
Invictus  
#38 Posted : 13 January 2016 11:02:16(UTC)
Rank: Super forum user
Invictus

Ray agree, try doing it with 90 prisoners 4 members of staff in the rain, even worse in the snow as it is like play time.
O'Donnell54548  
#39 Posted : 13 January 2016 12:40:10(UTC)
Rank: Forum user
O'Donnell54548

I agree with most of what has been added to this discussion, but to take it right back to basics can someone tell me where (specifically) in the RRO it states that the emergency procedures must be practiced/rehearsed/tested?
gotogmca  
#40 Posted : 13 January 2016 13:20:19(UTC)
Rank: Forum user
gotogmca

Excerpt from RRO

Procedures for serious and imminent danger and for danger areas
15.—(1) The responsible person must—
(a) establish and, where necessary, give effect to appropriate procedures, including safety drills, to be followed in the event of serious and imminent danger to relevant persons;

Does this answer your question O'Donnell54548
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