Why do we practice Fire Drills? The answer is the same as it would be for anything else.
We practice to improve.
I remember talking with a old teammate of mine, Bryan, about an amazing between the legs shot Andre Agassi made in a tennis match. Top players do the basics over and over until the muscle memory is automatic. We watch amazing feats on Sports Center, but what we don’t get to see are the hours and hours of practice it took to be able to make something like this happen.
This is the same reason doctors have such long residencies: to learn the skills needed to save peoples lives, so when the responsibility falls on them, they can make the right choices.
Fire drills provide your people with important skills. You are practicing how to evacuate a building and stay safe in the process. But to do these well, you need to measure your performance. If your family or employees go through the motions without trying to improve, you are just creating an illusion of improved safety. Practice something poorly over and over, and you will perform poorly. On a basketball court, this might have you on the receiving end of the highlight. But in an emergency, it could mean life or death.
Everyone likes to improve, so try to make a game out of the drill. Break it up into parts… How long does it take to get out to the evacuation area? Are people moving safely and orderly? How long does it take to check if everyone is there? Everyone should try to beat their best evacuation times while not rushing. By keeping metrics, everyone will be more focused, invested, and will get more out of it.
This is why it is so important to take safety drills seriously, whether for fires, earthquakes, or anything else. The better you practice a drill, the better prepared you will be when actual emergencies strike.
The other key to practice is for everyone to know the process.
- How should people exit the building?
- What are alternate routes?
- Where do they gather?
- Who will check off everyone to ensure they are safe?
- Is check off accomplished using a paper based or an automatic electronic system?
It is important to know who is out as quickly as possible. The sooner you know who is missing, the faster emergency responders will be able to help those who need it. And as you practice towards perfection, when an emergency does come around, everyone will be safer because of it. And THAT is the goal!