Surprise fire drill

I have to schedule my company's first ever fire drill. It must be a surprise, but unfortunately everyone in the office already knows that it will take place at midday, on one day in the first week of July. So I've been told to pick a day in the week that no-one will expect, so that it is still a surprise.
So, it cannot be held on Friday. Because if it gets to Thursday and it still hasn't happened, then everyone will know to expect it the following day. And then when it happens, no-one will be surprised. So Friday is out.
But then of course, once I've ruled out Friday, I'll have to rule out Thursday. Because if it hasn't happened by Wednesday afternoon, the employees will realise that with only two days left, one of which has already been ruled out, out the fire drill must be held on the following day. Again, no surprise, so it can't be Thursday either.
Once Thursday and Friday are ruled out, so is Wednesday. Because if it hasn't happened by Tuesday, the employees will realise that with only three days left (Wed-Fri), two of which have already been ruled out (Thurs and Fri) the fire drill must be expected on the following day - Wednesday. Again, if they're expecting it there's no surprise, so it can't be held on Wednesday.
You see my problem. If Wednesday is out, so Tuesday, and if Tuesday is out, so is Monday. On what day should I hold the fire drill? Surely it is impossible to surprise them? (My assistant unhelpfully suggested that I should just pick any day and then surprise the employees with an actual fire).


  • 14 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • You have lost sight of the point -- the practice drill (not the surprise). Just do it Tueday - if anyone guesses, then so be it.
  • Is this a joke? The important thing is that employees go through a drill so they know what to do in case of a fire. Since you set this up so there is no answer, I have a hard time imagining that you are serious (apparently your assistant feels the same way). Pick a day, schedule the drill, and make sure your employees know what to do so they have the best chance of being safe in the event of a real fire.
  • Get real, Max.  Fire drills, now more often referred to as evacuation drills, are nothing to take so lightly.  Or else you are overthinking the whole thing.

    I agree with Barbie. Throw a dart at the last week of June on the calendar and have the drill on that day and not at the time it is expected.

    Tell as few people as possible when the drill will be held.

    With your attitude, I'm not sure that you should be responsible for these drills.  Ask the safety committee or facility manager if someone else can take over.

  • Word usually gets out about these things anyway...there's really nothing you can do. As long as your employees know what to do when the time comes to actually have the drill, that's the most important thing.
  • Max,

    I really can not comprehend how the employees will know the days that you have ruled out. If it gets to Wednesday afternoon the employees will certainly suspect that the drill will be Thursday or Friday--how do they know that Friday has been ruled out? I think you may be over thinking yourself. If it gets to Tuesday you still have Wed and Thurs since the employees don't know what days are ruled out. Maybe you can explain a little better?

  • The employees are pretty clever. If I've realised that the days have to be ruled out, then they will have done too.

    Also, they're a stubborn lot, who don't see the point in these safety exercises. If they know it's a drill they'll just carry on working, hammer and tongs, as usual. And badgering them won't work. Badgerment will just result in the usual rounds of "I'm Spartacus!" "No I'm Spartacus!" until I give up. Sometimes even my assistant Passepartout chuckles to himself at this.

    So it has to come as a surprise, so that there's a small doubt in the backs of their minds about whether or not it's a drill. Then they'll start following the safety procedures.


  • This sounds like it might be more of a discipline problem, than a fire drill problem. Perhaps explaining the importance of fire drills to them would help. Although fire and evacuation drills are not specifically required under federal OSHA standards, OSHA does require that certain measures be taken to provide emergency exit routes, exit plans, and fire prevention plans. However, it would be imprudent for an employer not to have a planned program for evacuation in case of fire or other emergency. Even if fire and evacuation drills are not required, they are a good way to keep track of whether employees are up to date on the company's emergency action plan. Drills are also useful to test wether the plan will work properly during a real emergency.
  • Max-It sounds as if you have a major insubordination problem at your company. Perhaps you should remind them that they are required to follow job procedures that are set in place for them in order to continue employment. I agree with the other gentleman that this clearly exhibits a discipline problem instead of a true Emergency Fire Drill problem. Take control at your company.
  • I know, it's terrible. Sometimes I wish I'd never gone to work for this organization at all.
  • Success!

    I was right, the employees had all figured out that it was impossible for me to surprise them, thus rendering the fire drill useless. And they knew that I knew that they knew that the fire drill was impossible.

    So, with a heavy heart, I rang the bell this morning, anyway. But, because we all knew that the surprise fire drill was impossible, none of the employees saw it coming! Hoisted by their own petard!

    So thankyou all for your advice. You were right in the end, but for totally the wrong reason.

  • Just pick a day and random an hour and you will surprise everyone.  That it is the best exercise
  • At my agency, Human Services for developmentally disabled children, adults and seniors, I conduct a pre arranged drill once a year then have the local fire department conduct an authentic drill (alarm and fire truck) that is unannounced to everyone (including me). This gives us feedback from the professionals and has been very helpful. The individual programs conduct monthly in-house drills but the unannounced drill really shows the level of readyness.
  • You can't be serious Max. In every organization with which I'm familiar, safety violations are disciplinary events of the highest magnitude. Refusing to participate in a company's evacuation exercises is a safety violation. I'd suggest three days suspension, unpaid.

  • Max,

    The next suprise element you need to spring on these employess is discipline.   It is a scarey thought that they do not take safety to heart where they won't participate in a fire drill.   Make it mandatory and if they do not comply start the progressive disciplinary actions with them.  They will evacuate after they learn of consequences.   

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