I had been given task to organize a fire evacuation drill specifically for only a certain area in a building.
As ridiculous as it may seem, there was a very good reason for doing this.
Firstly, this is a high technology manufacturing facility that manufactures products under extremely clean and dust-free conditions. With clean room facilities standard that goes down to class 10, it is very, very clean indeed. As such it is very important that dust do not enter into clean room under manufacturing conditions. So in past, all evacuation drills were done just before we had a planned plant shutdown for maintenance.
Secondly, during past few years, whenever an evacuation drill was organized, administration offices were usually closed, and all workers will be making use of opportunity to take their vacation. Practically nobody will be around. Even production workers will be taking their vacation when they have stopped all their machines and handed over plant for shutdown maintenance.
So when office workers say that they do not know what to do in a fire situation, we can fully understand why. They had not been taking part in any fire evacuation drill before. It is not enough just to describe what will happen in an evacuation to them - somehow, we have to organize an actual evacuation drill for office workers themselves. The challenge is to do it while manufacturing production is still operating.
Any mistake that will cause people from manufacturing clean rooms to evacuate will be disastrous to company. The stakes are high.
The fire protection alarm system in our building is wired in such a way that any triggering of alarm by activating a break glass, smoke detector, heat detector or sprinkler flow switch will eventually trigger general alarm for whole building if it is not acknowledged and reset back within 3 minutes. This is a safety feature to ensure that somebody actually goes and check situation whenever there is an alarm.
In our fire evacuation plan, all occupants had been trained to open doors of nearest exit point and escape from building whenever it is confirmed that a real fire or emergency has occurred. This will ensure that nobody is left inside building if there is a real emergency.
However, as far as our manufacturing clean room is concerned, this will be disastrous. All products, rooms, machinery and clean room environment will be destroyed once doors were opened to atmosphere. It will take hours to recover back to original condition. The losses will be enormous.
Although normal communications through supervisors and public address systems can be done, still there is too much at stake to take that risk.