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Developing Your Own Fire Evacuation Plan

(Note: This information is NOT intended to be used for the development of the "Emergency Plan in Lieu of Areas of Evacuation Assistance" in new commercial buildings as required by the Kirkland Building Department Policy Number 1.010.)

A Fire Evacuation Plan is a well thought out design that takes into consideration the unique features of your building and its occupants. No one plan will work for every building, but the main components are the same. Fire Department personnel are available to review your fire evacuation plan once it is completed.


Getting Started

Survey the building

Determine what type of fire and life safety systems are present including fire alarm systems, smoke detectors, voice alarm system, sprinklers, fire extinguishers, manual pull alarms, and fire doors. If your fire alarm system is monitored, be sure to keep the name and phone number of the monitoring company readily available at the fire alarm panel.

If you are not completely familiar with your fire alarm system or other fire protection features, contact your building management or a professional fire protection company to learn more about them.

Survey the building occupants.

Does your building house a changing population, as in a retail store or restaurant, or will the building occupants be familiar with the facility? Note any special needs that individuals may have, such as non-English speaking or physical disabilities.

Developing A Plan

Develop a floor plan.

Design a basic floor plan for each floor of the building. On each floor, indicate the location of all fire exits, manual pull stations, and extinguishing equipment. Post the floor plan throughout the building. Mark "YOU ARE HERE" according to the location of the posted plan. Then, mark the path to the two closest fire exits. Also note that elevators must not be used as a fire exit.

Develop written procedures.

This can be a simple flyer that you distribute to tenants, or a bound document that details the roles of staff and tenants during a fire emergency. This document should be readily available for building occupants and distributed to new staff during orientation.

Assign a meeting place.

Choose an outside location for occupants to meet after evacuating at a distance from the building. In the event of an evacuation, this is a place to assemble and take a head count. The meeting place location should be far enough away from the building to keep individuals out of the way of firefighting activities and away from falling glass and debris.

Implementing The Plan.

Staff or resident meetings, new employee orientations, and building newsletters are effective ways of introducing tenants to a new Fire Evacuation Plan. Explain the routes of evacuation and point out alarms and extinguishing equipment. Let them know where the predetermined meeting place is for each floor or section of the building, if evacuated. Explain the proper procedures for reporting a fire. Stress that elevators cannot be used for evacuation in a fire emergency.

Recruit Floor Wardens.

Floor wardens are volunteers selected from among the building staff and tenants. Their role is to assist in the evacuation of occupants from the building in the event of a fire alarm. Floor wardens are on the front lines of emergency response when a fire occurs. They must be familiar with the building evacuation plan, and should receive training at least annually.

The Kirkland Fire Department can provide assistance in training employees or residents. Contact the Public Education Section at 587-3650.

Reporting Emergencies.

The spread of fire can be very fast. It takes less than three minutes for a free-burning fire to reach temperatures over 1,000°F. Controlling the fire and evacuating everyone safely depends on immediate notification of the emergency to the Fire Department and building security or management personnel.

Post all phones with the Fire Department's emergency number.

In Kirkland, call 9-1-1 for Fire, Medical Aid, or Police. Make sure the address of the building appears on the telephone. If the building manager wants to be notified, the appropriate number should also be listed on or near the phone.

Building occupants should be instructed to call 9-1-1 whenever an emergency occurs.

They should be prepared to state:

a. The type of emergency.

b. The address of the building.

c. The nearest cross street.

d. The extent of the fire and specific information, if known.

The caller should never hang up until told to do so by the emergency operator.

Automatic Fire Alarm Reporting


A common misconception is that all building fire alarms are monitored by the Fire Department. This is not true. When fire alarms are monitored, it is done by private monitoring companies. When such a company receives a signal indicating an alarm has been activated, they in turn notify the appropriate fire department dispatch center. Never make the assumption that a fire alarm will automatically be reported to the Fire Department. Always make sure that a call has been placed directed to 9-1-1 regardless of whether your building is monitored by a private monitoring service.

Fire Alarm Response Procedures

Treat every alarm as an emergency.

In every instance, if an alarm sounds, all building staff and occupants should react as though it is a real emergency.


1. The Fire Safety Director, or responsible staff member, proceeds to the fire alarm panel. Initial evacuation begins immediately upon alarm.

2. Notify the Fire Department by calling 9-1-1.

3. If available, trained building staff members investigate to determine the location of the fire, and take steps to extinguish it if possible.

4. When the Fire Department arrives, the officer in charge takes command of the scene.

5. If building staff determine that the alarm is false prior to the Fire Department's arrival, call 9-1-1 and relay the information to Fire Department dispatchers.

6. Upon instruction of the fire dispatcher, building personnel may silence the alarm. DO NOT RESET THE ALARM!

7. The Fire Department dispatcher will notify the fire companies in route to your building that a false alarm has been indicated. One fire company will continue to your building to verify that the alarm is false. All other fire department response will be canceled.

It is extremely important not to reset the fire alarm when you believe an alarm is false, until directed to do so by the Fire Department. If the alarm is reset prior to Fire Department permission, it may be necessary for the Fire Department to search your building completely to verify the alarm is false.

Procedures for Persons Unable to Use Exit Stairs

If you can move to the exit and have persons to assist you:


Move to the exit stairwell. Wait until all persons on the floor have evacuated and traffic in the stairwell has cleared. If the stairwell is free of smoke, enter and wait on the stairwell landing. Two people should wait with you, while one person should inform the arriving Fire Department of you location. Make sure that the door is securely closed.

If you are waiting in the exit stairwell and traffic builds from the evacuation of upper floors, reenter your floor to allow others to pass and the stairwell to clear.

If there are too many individuals to wait on the landing, an area of refuge should be sought on that floor, such as an apartment or a room with a door, window, and telephone. Use the fire survival skills described below.

Assistants should not attempt to carry you down the stairs unless conditions in the stairwell become threatening. If conditions deteriorate, the assistants can then perform a carry down the stairs to a safer area.

If you are unable to leave the floor:


If you do not have persons to wait with you, or if you are unable to leave your unit, refuge should be sought on that floor. The most appropriate location would be a totally enclosed room with a telephone and window. This may be your apartment or an office.

Observe the following survival rules:

Use towels or clothing to block openings around doors or vents where smoke might enter. Put a wet cloth over your mouth and nose.

Place a signal in the window. The signal can be anything that will call attention to your location. For instance, tie the curtains in a knot.

If smoke or fire enters your unit, call 9-1-1 to report your location. Stay low to the floor to breathe the best air.

It is advisable not to open or break windows. Often smoke from the outside of the building can enter through open windows. Breaking windows will put you at great risk to smoke entering from the outside, and will hamper rescue efforts below.

Fire Drills

In a fire drill, building occupants should duplicate as closely as possible the actions they would take if a fire occurred. A log book, indicating the date, time, and section of the building in which the drill is conducted should be kept. If your building fire alarm is monitored, notify the monitoring company of the drill immediately prior to its occurrence. There is no need to notify the Fire Department.

Fire drills may be pre-announced to building staff or occupants, or they may be unannounced. Consideration of the building occupants and the use of the building may determine which type of drill is most appropriate.

Critique your drill.

Check for the following:

Fire brigade members (if present in your facility) were notified and responded appropriately to the fire floor.

Building occupants could clearly hear and understand the alarm and any additional instructions.

Evacuation was completed in an orderly and expedient manner.

Floor wardens guided occupants to safety, completed floor check and reported to building staff or Fire Safety Director upon completion of evacuation.

Disabled persons were assisted appropriately.

Elevators were not used for evacuation.

Establishing a fire scenario.

You may choose to designate a specific location for the drill "fire", and establish a scenario which would alter the basic fire drill procedures. It is best to attempt this type of drill after occupants have become familiar with their standard evacuation procedures. This type of drill may be more interesting to building occupants, as they have to make decisions when they encounter situations apart from the ordinary.

Ideas for fire scenarios:

1. Post signs or locate building staff inside one of the exit stairwells to inform those attempting to enter that the stairwell is blocked by smoke and they must choose a different route.

2. Use a cardboard box decorated with red paper flames, or a flashing light, to indicate where the drill "fire" is located. Have the staff person discovering it show you the correct procedure to follow.

Apathy or lack of participation in fire drills.

You may encounter some building occupants who refuse to participate in fire drills. Problems with frequent alarms in a building may make matters even worse.


Your best tactic in gaining cooperation in drills is to try to explain the advantages of participation. Explain that under real fire conditions, evacuation can be considerably more complicated. Informing employees that liability for their employees increases if they do not allow or encourage participation in the drill may also influence them to participate. If a fire did occur and one of their employees was injured or killed, it is possible they may be named in some legal action because of their lack of support for learning fire safety procedures.

Making the drill more interesting by using a fire scenario, or checking to make sure the drill will be held at a convenient time, may yield better participation. Some buildings hand out candy to occupants as they leave the building to go to their meeting place, to provide an obvious incentive.

Additional Resources


The Fire Prevention Bureau provides assistance in evacuation planning, as well as resources for training staff and building residents. Call the Fire Department during business hours at (425) 587-3650 for further information.


Fire Services
123 5th Avenue, Kirkland WA 98033

General Inquiries
T. 425.587.3650 | F. 425.587.3671