Q: Do table top exercises count as a fire drill? We are updating our old policies and traditionally it has been allowed to have tabletops count as a fire drill, as long as half of them were actual Evacuation Fire Drills.
A: No, table top exercises, while they can be very helpful in the planning phase, are not an acceptable substitute in lieu of actually performing the fire drill. The reason why is you are required to perform multiple functions during a fire drill:
- Evaluate staff’s response to a fire situation, both at the point of the alarm and away from the point of the alarm
- Evaluate the building’s response to the fire alarm
- Evaluate the fire alarm’s response to the drill
- Confirm that the alarm signal was transmitted to the fire department during the drill
In short: How are you going to confirm and evaluate all of that if you do not perform the drill?
Actual fire emergencies are usually an acceptable substitute in performing a fire drill, provided you still are able to make all of the evaluation and confirmations. However, that is not easy to do when you and your staff are responding to an actual alarm.
Sorry, but you still must perform the required amount of fire drills in your facility. And by the way, many accreditation organizations have changed the way they define time. The phrase ‘quarterly’ used to mean you could perform the fire drill anytime during the calendar quarter. Now, Joint Commission and HFAP will require you to perform a fire drill 3 months from the previous drill, plus or minus 10 days. That will require more planning and organization on your part.