Due to safety concerns during the COVID-19 crisis, high-rise and midrise buildings requiring fire drills will be allowed to use alternative methods for conducting the fire drills. Fire drills should remain at the forefront of individuals’ minds to ensure they follow their building’s evacuation procedures should there be a fire emergency.
Per the City of Houston Fire Code, Chapter 4, fire drills in high-rise buildings are to be conducted at least every six months. The fire drill is for the management staff and building occupants. The primary purpose of a total building fire drill is to allow the people in the building to hear what the fire alarm tone sounds like, hear the public address system (where provided), and to learn where the exits/stairs are located.
Note: Fire drills will be conducted; however, the gathering of individuals at the stairwell will be discontinued at this time to limit the spread of COVID-19. The following procedures should be followed as an alternative method of conducting fire safety drills.
1. Building management must provide advance written notification to all management employees who are on staff or contracted and the building’s tenants, guests, visitors or residences of the date, the exact time, duration, and particulars of the fire drill. When the alarm activates for the scheduled fire drill, the monitoring company should not call the fire department.
2. Management must provide all management employees, tenants, or residences with the building’s evacuation procedures before the date of the drill.
3. Tenants must give the fire drill information and evacuation procedures to all employees and contractors before the scheduled date of the drill and to visitors on the date/time of the planned fire drill.
4. Instructions in the notice must state that during the fire drill, individuals’ will not be required to go to the stairs. However, individuals are required to review the building’s fire safety evacuation procedures during the exercise (this allows individuals to mentally prepare to go to the exits in case of an actual event).
5. During the drill, if anyone cannot hear the alarm or understand the public address announcement (where provided), they should notify the building management in writing as soon as possible.
6. At least 15 minutes before the exact time of the fire drill, the UL Listed monitoring service should be called and the fire drill information given to the call taker. They must be told that when the alarm comes in for the fire drill that they are not to call the fire department.
Note: If the monitoring service, answering service, or anyone from the building calls the fire department when the fire alarm sounds for the drill, the fire department will dispatch a Fire Truck in emergency mode, causing a false alarm. When the drill is over, the alarm monitoring service or answering service should be called back as soon as possible to put the building back online.