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Emergency Building Evacuation
Commercial Property Managers and Building Owners

Here’s an unexpected number, in a recent survey close to 50% of property management groups indicated building evacuation fire drills need to be higher on their priority list. Some have not provided fire drills at all while others were done infrequently and inconsistently.  In fact, a portion of those surveyed also indicated they either do not have basic Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) required written plans such as; an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) and a Fire Prevention Plan (FPP) in place or they haven’t been reviewed and updated within the last year.

In order to deal with potential non-compliance, commercial property managers and building owners must identify typical emergency incidents that may occur at their properties and then address site-specific safety measures including emergency and safety written plans as well as regular scheduled fire drills. Life SafetyPro HQ can assist you with this.

Here Are The Four Basic Starter Steps:

  1. Do a Site risk assessment – Hazard Evaluation
  2. Develop required written emergency and safety plans
  3. Distribute the plans to your tenant management contacts
  4. Implement your written plans with related emergency fire drills

Life SafetyPro HQ provides expert consultation and support in the emergency and life safety arena.
**Due to a no compete agreement, expert consultation and selected services for the safety and emergency response arena cannot be supported within the state of California until January  1,  2022. 

Code Requirements:

Now for a little bit of light reading – okay, so it’s not so light…but it’s short…The code requirements for fire drills are found in a number of national standards and in the requirements of OSHA 29, Code of Federal Regulations 1910.38, OSHA required written plans to include but not inclusive to; Emergency Action Plan and Fire Prevention Plan.

National standards:

Fire drill requirements and fire prevention codes such as NFPA 1, Fire Prevention Code, 2018 edition, and others promulgated by consensus code organizations. NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, 2018 edition, also contains specific requirements for fire drills in many occupancies. These codes are adopted by many jurisdictions in North America. Other jurisdictions develop their own fire prevention regulations that, in all likelihood, contain requirements for fire drills in some occupancies. When planning fire drills, you must identify the specific codes, standards, and regulations that apply to the jurisdiction and facility. Again, Life SafetyPro HQ can provide expert consultation regarding the planning and implementing of all fire drill elements.

Frequency of Fire Drills

The National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) Life Safety Code states that drills must be frequent enough to familiarize occupants with drill procedures and to establish a routine. This of course puts the responsibility on the property management group and/or the building owner.

By doing fire drills on a regular and consistent basis, occupants will remember what they need to do—it’s building muscle memory—as it re-enforces the behavior – decreasing injuries and possible fatalities.

The NFPA requirements are paraphrased as follows:

Emergency evacuation frequency is to familiarize occupants with fire drill procedures and to establish the fire drill as a matter of routine. Fire drills shall include suitable procedures to ensure that all persons subject to the drill participate. If an emergency egress and relocation drill is considered merely as a routine exercise from which some persons are allowed to be excused, there is a grave danger that, in an actual emergency, the evacuation and relocation will not be successful. However, there might be circumstances under which all occupants do not participate in an emergency egress and relocation drill; for example, infirm or bedridden patients in a health care facility.

If a specific frequency is not indicated in the occupancy chapter of the NFPA Codes, then the performance requirement just stated applies. One to two drills annually in most work environments is considered adequate to meet the requirement. Check your local fire authority as they may specify the frequency of evacuation drills for their region.

Tenant Booklet Table of Contents – this may seem pretty daunting as well – we can help…

Of course every building has different risks and concerns as well as requirements, meaning, your site-specific table of contents will vary. Some tenant hand booklets can be very comprehensive while others are much more succinct.
Life SafetyPro HQ provides the development or refinement of your Tenant Hand Booklet as well as the development of specific Emergency and Safety Written Plan segments you may need such as an Emergency Action Plan – Fire Prevention Plan – Active Shooter, Basic First Aid, etc.


• Building Access
• Building Operations & Management
• Emergency & Property Management Contacts
• Access System – Keys & Locks


Here’s a word of caution: If any of your tenants have their own internal emergency action plans and fire prevention plans make sure their procedures do not conflict with your written plans for the building at large. They can’t be going left when everyone else is going right, I’m sure you know what we mean…


  • Alcohol Beverages within the building
  • Building Rules & Regulations
  • Building Website
  • Communications
  • Conference Rooms
  • Cooking
  • Deliveries
  • E-Cigarettes & Smoking
  • Elevators & Stairwells
  • Emergency Generator
  • Exterior Grounds Maintenance
  • Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning (HVAC)
  • Janitorial Service
  • Landscape Services


  • Mail & Couriers
  • Maintenance Requests
  • Miscellaneous Amenities & Services
  • Move in / Move Out
  • Parking / Lot Maintenance
  • Personal Appliances – what is prohibited
  • Property Protection
  • Recycle/Trash
  • Remittance Address – Electronic Payment
  • Service Animals
  • Tenant / Contractor & Vendor – Insurance requirements
  • Utilities


  • Active Shooter / Workplace Violence
  • Biological Release
  • Bomb Threat
  • Building Evacuation Notification
  • Building Fire/Life Safety Systems
  • Building Plans – Emergency Exits
  • Burglary & Robbery
  • Elevator Personal Safety
  • Emergency Action Written Plan
  • Emergency Building Evacuation Procedures
  • Emergency Communications
  • Emergency Contacts
  • Emergency Planning Resources
  • Evacuation Routes
  • Fire Alarms / Smoke Detectors / Strobe Lights
  • Fire Drills
  • Fire Extinguishers
  • Fire Inside Your Tenant Space
  • Fire Outside Your Tenant Space
  • Fire Prevention Tips
  • Fire Prevention Written Plan
  • Flood/Water Leak
  • Floor Warden Duties & Accounting For Occupants
  • Hazardous Materials Spill Or Leak
  • Medical Emergencies
  • Natural Disasters
  • Natural Gas Leak
  • Occupants – Special Assistance
  • Operating Fire Extinguishers
  • Physically Challenged Occupants
  • Power Failure
  • Property/Exterior Site Plan
  • Re-Assembly Areas
  • Reporting A Fire
  • Reporting An Emergency – Procedures
  • Riot / Violent Demonstration / Picketing
  • Severe Weather
  • Shelter-In-Place
  • Shut Down – Start Up Procedures
  • Suspicious Packages/Mail

Do you really need Floor Wardens?

The primary role of floor wardens is to facilitate an orderly building evacuation of occupants. Floor wardens are on the front lines when an emergency building evacuation is needed. With a just a bit of leadership skills and knowledge floor wardens can decrease panic, give direction and literally save lives.

How many Floor Wardens do you need?

Determining an exact figure is a bit tricky as each site has different variables to consider. What is commonly used is a minimum of a 20:1 ratio meaning for every 20 occupants you need at least one floor warden – with a tenant having less than 20 employees you still need at least one assigned and one backup floor warden.

Having backup floor wardens is important to cover the possilbilty of illness, travel, etc. With that said consider a 20:2 ratio.

See the Risk Matrix below for further details.

Determining your site risks:

Here are several variables that will assist you in determining your overall level of risk:

  • ♦ What is the size and complexity of your building?
    • • Be it a low-rise / mid-rise or high-rise – While there are no universally accepted definitions for these terms this is what is usual and customary – check with your local fire authority to see how they define Low-rise/Mid-rise/High-rise buildings.
      • · Low-rise = 1-3 stories · Mid-rise = 4-6 stories · High-rise = 7 stories and above
    • • Large rooms and complex layouts take longer to evacuate, so they need to be covered by more floor wardens.
    • • Smoke and fire may spread easier in simple layouts often due to high-ceilings and large open areas, however, complex layouts can lead to people being trapped, hence another priority to have floor wardens
    • • Consider the fabric of your building – is it steel, brick – do you have large areas where fire could spread quickly, etc.
  • ♦ What is the level of risk within the building?
    • • Location and type hazardous materials – combustibles and flammables – machinery & equipment, etc.
  • ♦ Number of total occupants and type of occupants at any given time
    • • Those at greater risk include the elderly, children, pregnant women, people that are physically challenged, and members of the general public. Additional floor wardens are needed where high risk occupants are present
  • ♦ The number of work shifts and type of work
    • • The more shifts there are, the more floor wardens and backup floor wardens are needed
    • • Certain work activities might slow down people’s evacuation of the building, such as working with vehicles or machinery that must be turned off. Furthermore, tasks that involve working with sources of ignition or fuel (e.g. cooking or welding) create greater risk
  • ♦ Consider additional Floor Wardens
    • We mention this a bit earlier in regards to floor warden coverage for vacations, sick days, sabbaticals, terminations, and when an employee no longer wants to be a Floor Warden, etc.

Site-Risk Assessment Matrix

• This basic site-matrix can be utilized to help determine your general site risk based on what is defined as High-Risk / Medium-Risk / Low-Risk, Note: This is not a site hazard evaluation matrix, that’s something totally different – we can assist you with this process.
• As mentioned earlier with a higher site risk you need to consider additional Floor Wardens
• As you’ll recall the minimum recommendation is 20:1 – this ratio is good for a low-risk environment – 15:1 ratio or greater should be considered for a high-risk environment


Meeting any elements of the three columns will assist you in your site-risk evaluation





High Risk

• 500 people or more on site
• 10% or more of employees are age 50 or older
• High rise building of 7 or more floors
• 3 or more buildings
• Large campus or difficult access
• High density urban site or remote location with 9-1-1 response beyond 6 minutes
• Multiple hazards including hazardous materials
• Danger to life with exposure potential

Medium Risk

• 100-499 employees
• Average age is between 38 – 49
• 2 or less buildings on campus
• 4 or less floors per building
• Small campus
• Easy access by 9-1-1
• Some hazards
• Potential risk of injury is moderate

Low Risk

• <100 employees
• Average age < 38
• One building
• Simplistic design
• Little or no hazards
• Potential risk of injury is low
Resource: Click to our Blog for Building Evacuation Fire Drill Checklist

Resource: Click to our Blog for Fire Drill Observers Checklist

Emergency Action & Fire Prevention Plans:

Depending on the characteristics of your buildings and site as well as the general functions of the occupants, property management groups and building owners’ emergency preparedness programs must consist (as a minimum) of OSHA a required Emergency Action Plan and a Fire Prevention Plan. Additionally, you should also include other site risks that require written plans such HazMat Waste Ops, Laser Safety, etc.


Click for written plan titles and details.

All response plans, once developed, should be shared with your local fire authority and should include the following information as a minimum:

• Alarm(s) general description and function
• Building description
• Emergency response equipment inventory and locations if any
• Floor plans including high risk area descriptions
• Internal emergency contact information including property management / building owner
• Re-Assembly Areas
• Specific life hazard details and related safety data sheets
• Utility shut-off locations and descriptions

Let’s talk a bit on myths and facts.
Floor wardens are typically assigned a building zone / floor so as an example, let’s say a floor warden is assigned to the fifth floor, however, she is on the second floor in a meeting when the building alarm goes off.
Well, she’s responsible for the fifth floor and if she doesn’t get up there real quick we could have issues.
A: All floor wardens’ dump (meaning, guiding occupants out of the building) where they are located, meaning, with her being on the second floor, she would do her floor warden duties on that floor. She or any occupants should never go up and into a building. It’s always down and out. The exception is, and there is always an exception, right…if getting out requires you go up and in, like from a basement area or underground parking.
Myth: Floor wardens are a secondary alarm system:
This brings on a bit of controversy. The primary purpose of your fire alarm system is to notify occupants to evacuate the building or relocated within the building. It is not a floor warden’s job to be a secondary alarm system.

Myth: Floor wardens must clear all occupants from their assigned areas:
This is often called ‘sweeping the area’.  The challenges of a floor warden ‘sweeping an area’ is they’re looking for possibly a handful of occupants that are not in the common area but maybe in a restroom or conference room or IT room and possibly can’t hear the fire alarm or see the strobe lights. Frankly, that’s an engineering problem and that needs to be fixed.

Fact: Fire Alarms

There should be no areas within your building(s) that occupants can’t hear a fire alarm or see strobe lights.

So, if your floor wardens are ‘sweeping’ their assigned area the remaining occupants in the common area are without leadership and guidance to insure a timely and orderly evacuation. Additionally, floor wardens likely do not have the knowledge and experience to judge how safe or unsafe it is or will be in delay getting themselves out of the building.

Fact: So, just for this discussion let’s say you still want your floor wardens to ‘sweep’ their assigned area and while doing so you have them place a post-it on the outside of a room to indicate to incoming firefighters that the room has been checked.  In fact there are pre-made door signs you can purchase (like the old style hotel do not disturb signs) that read the room is clear. For most if not all fire departments that’s not going to work. Firefighters won’t pay attention to your signage, they will maintain their responsibility of insuring the room is clear of occupants and not rely on an unknown, likely untrained civilian to make that decision for them. Yes, there are specific techniques and skills used by emergency response personnel to perform a quick, effective and safe search.
Yes, as usual there are exceptions regarding ‘sweeping’ such as; when a floor warden is guiding occupants and themselves out of the building they can quickly scan an area for anyone not evacuating and direct them to follow the group out of the building. Remember, your written evacuation plan should be reviewed by your local fire authority.

Fact: Floor wardens: Go Down & Out – Not up & In!!
As mentioned before, while a floor warden is guiding occupants out and should someone needs assistance exiting they can, if done quickly and it is safe assist that person.  If that is not possible report the person and their location to a Team Leader and/or 9-1-1 personnel.

Misconception: Floor wardens giving North/South/East/West directions to occupants.
That doesn’t work – give this a try, with10 or so people, say in a meeting, have them close their eyes and keep them closed and then have them point North. See how that goes…You’ll get several variations of where North is. Better to give landmarks something like “exit via the stairwell next to the copy room”.

Fact: Stairwells: Q: Should Occupants exit via a stairwall more than two abreast during an emergency building evacuation?
A: No, that may not leave enough room for firefighters with their equipment to come up the stairwell. Remember, accoupants go down the right-side of the stairwell in single file or two abreast as firefighters will be coming up the stairwell on their right-side.

Resource: Life SafetyPro HQ will assist you in determining what a reasonable number of Floor Wardens would be needed for your site(s). There is no cost for this, just shoot us an email or give us a ring. Toll Free: 800-594-9992

Now onto the OSHA – yes, a little more light reading…

As of 2016, fines and penalties for OSHA violations have increased. Commercial property and building owners must comply with relevant Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) regulations in order to avoid the increasing non-compliance expenses.

Some building owners see the cost to develop, update, or just maintaining an emergency preparedness program challenging or unnecessary. However, time and expense when compared to the cost of lives, property damage, OSHA citations and civil lawsuits do not come close to comparing.

Be proactive – plan and implement now, otherwise, should the unfortunate happen, you’ll be forced to anyway at a much higher cost. Lives, property and citations.

Typical Office Environment

• Site safety issues in office environments are often neglected or missed because the environment is generally a pretty low risk. Office environments safety challenges are of course much different than say a manufacturing or production site.
• Most of us are alert when in front of say a laser system or the noise of a printing press, but most are not so alert when inside a typical office maze. Potential safety issues are simply not noticed. It’s easy to miss hidden hazards or OSHA compliance issues.
• Most managers are not too concerned about OSHA compliance in the office setting. OSHA inspections are rare in a general office environment. But there is more to it than that…
• OSHA penalty assessments are not always the result of workplace fatalities. Most inspections are triggered by an employee complaint. The majority of citations and penalties result from routine compliance violations.
• Here’s one of the challenges many property managers and building owners face. If you manage or own multiple properties (regardless of where they are located in the United States) repeat violations can add up. OSHA stacks repeated violations for up to five years. Meaning, if another one of your locations violates the same OSHA standard within that five-year period, OSHA can assess up to $70,000 per item. That’s a pretty big number.

If you’re considering an Emergency Response Team (ERT) among other things we developed an algorithm to assist you in determining the number of ERT members needed as well as the type of training and equipment/supply recommendations – No, we’re not going to nickel and dime you, There is no cost for this, just shoot us an email or give us a ring. Toll Free: 800-594-9992.

Emergency Response Team Development:
We also offer comprehensive development in the building, rebuilding, maintaining and retaining your ERT. This support can be as comprehensive or simplistic as you need or like.

Emergency Response Team Development

Here’s a snap-shot of what our ERT support provides

At first glance the table below looks pretty overwhelming – Life SafetyPro HQ will take the stress and time out of the development of your ERT – it’s not just going to be you doing this…

You can utilize some or all of the support elements listed below:

Do you really need an ERT?

ERT recruitment based on your site risks – buildings/campus, population – mean age – shifts, etc.

• How to choose ERT members rather than them choosing you
• Department champions to assist in recruiting
• Senior management support
• Staff meetings
• Lunch info meetings
• More…

Management support & approval strategies
Senior management letter matrix

ERT core training titles based on anticipated site-specific incidents and risk analysis

Sample ERT Titles

• **Active Shooter
• **Bloodborne Pathogens
• **Building Evacuation
• **CPR/AED/First Aid
• **Communications
• **Crowd Control/Scene Management
• **Fire Extinguisher
• Hazardous Materials
• **Basic Incident Command Functions
• Light Search & Rescue
• **Natural Disasters
• **Triage
• More…

**typical titles with limited or no HazMat issues

Budget development – hard/soft overall costs
• Cost analysis (what if) spreadsheet
• More…

ERT equipment/supplies

• ERT member: Placards/Signs
• General response equipment usage
• Incident Reports
• Response Vests – Arm Bands – Hats, etc.
• Restocking
• More…

ERT written policies and procedures

ERT retention & affinity program

Control Methods

• Activating/Deactivating an ERT member
• All-hands meetings
• Equipment/supply allocation
• ERT Orientation
• Managers approval
• Selection methods
• Sign off forms
• Site Emergency Notification
• Training records
• More…

ERT orientation booklet

Intranet – development of
ERT Web pages including but not limited to:

• About ERT
• Goals & objectives
• Training content & requirements
• Response guidelines & procedures
• Training schedule
• Equipment and restocking
• Incident report forms
• Online quizzes
• More…

ERT steering committee

Existing ERT – Shake them out

• Who’s left
• How active have they been?
• Reengaging
• Rebuilding
• Improving their involvement as an ERT member
• Decreasing the roller-coaster ride of ERT members quitting
• More…


Call Toll Free: 800-594-9992 or email us for additional support, knowledge, techniques and strategies.

Hours of operation M-F 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. PST

© 2018 Life SafetyPro HQ


**Due to a no compete agreement, expert consultation and selected services for the safety and emergency response arena cannot be supported within the state of California until January  1,  2022.