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SO, you are the NEW fire warden. What did your company cover with you for duties?

7 key duties of a fire wardenFire wardens play an important role in ensuring your business is prepared for a fire emergency. Along with your emergency plan, fire wardens are an important risk control measure to ensure that your workplace is prepared should an emergency situation, potentially a fire, occur.

Pending your business, Pending your stafff, Pending your skills and risks and pending if you are downtown or in the industrial areas of your municipality. Key duties of fire wardens include:

  • to assist in implementing and improving effective emergency procedures in your workplace;
  • to help prevent emergencies by monitoring the adequacy of the fire risk control measures;
  • to raise awareness with other staff about the fire hazards that exist in your workplace;
  • to instruct workers in how to respond in an emergency;
  • to lead the fire drills and real evacuation procedures – they must be familiar with all escape routes and exits from their designated area;
  • to ensure all workers are accounted for during an evacuation; and
  • to assist all people in the workplace should an emergency occur, including assisting people with special needs, e.g. helping someone in a wheelchair to evacuate.

If the fire alarm is sounded, fire wardens have a duty to assist in the safe evacuation of workers and visitors from your workplace immediately, and to ensure that their designated area has been cleared.

During an evacuation, fire wardens need to:

  • direct everyone to leave the building using all the appropriate routes and exits (and not inappropriate exits such as lifts);
  • check all accessible spaces in their area, including the bathroom, to make sure everyone has evacuated – this should be done on the way out of the building so that the fire warden isn’t putting themselves at risk by re-entering the evacuated area;
  • close the doors to help to isolate the fire; and
  • guide everyone to the assembly area and assist in checking that everyone has arrived safely.

Fire wardens should be provided with full authority to conduct an evacuation and your workers should know that the warden has this authority.

The fire warden should also check on a regular basis that fire exits are clear at all times.

In order to distribute fire wardens around all the exits, please try to follow this plan after you have finished clearing your floor.  The fire alarm system functions as a single stage system that sounds the Evacuation Alarm in all wings when activated. The alarm sounds as a single repeating tone.


Role of Floor Emergency Wardens: How many fire wardens your workplace should have is dependent on the size and nature (i.e. level of risk) in your business. For example, a business that handles or stores flammable substances is high-risk and will need higher risk control measures, including potentially more fire wardens.

For small businesses, you may only need one person who is aware of the workplace layout, location of fire exits and is able to manage an evacuation in an emergency.

For medium to large businesses, it is quite common to have a chief warden and deputy warden for the whole workplace and, depending on the size of the floors and extent of the risks, a floor warden for each floor and area wardens for different areas on each floor.

Do not rely solely on your fire wardens as they may be unavailable on the day a fire starts. All staff must understand how to respond if a fire commences.

Guidelines for Fire Wardens:

  • Know your area, the people in it, and at least two safe exits
  • Familiarize yourself with the fire protection equipment in your area and the location of the pullboxes
  • During an evacuation, direct all persons to the nearest safe exit – NOT ELEVATORS
  • Close all doors as you leave
  • Check washrooms and rest areas and advise occupants of the emergency situation
  • Assist in the evacuation of persons with disabilities
  • Maintain an orderly and controlled evacuation
  • Do not use elevators during an evacuation
  • Remain outside the building until informed by Security or the Fire Department that it is safe to return

The role of the Floor Emergency warden in your  company building is to:

  • ensure that all people in the area are aware that an alarm is in progress and that they should evacuate the building immediately
  • help direct people to an exit in an orderly manner
  • identify any areas in the building where people remain so fire fighters can rescue them if necessary

Before an alarm, every Floor Emergency Warden should become familiar with all the rooms in the wing for which they are responsible. Walk around and check all the doors including growth rooms and walk-in incubators/freezers.

Evacuation alarm: (LOUD single repeating tone):

  • wear your fluorescent vest and carry a pencil and record book to record notes during the evacuation.
  • proceed to clear your wing: check all doors and inform people to leave the building immediately. Advise them ‘Do Not use elevator’. Close all doors (locked or unlocked) to slow the spread of fire.
  • if a room is locked, knock and yell to evacuate building
  • be sure to check all washrooms
  • get non-ambulatory people to a safe area (like a stairwell); have someone stay with the person if possible; report their location to the main panel as soon as possible.
  • don’t argue with anyone who will not leave. Record their name/location and report to the Main Fire Panel as soon as possible
  • try and exit via your assigned door
  • report information about your floor/wing to the fire warden at the exit (or via radio if assigned).
  • wait until you receive the ‘All Clear’ over the intercom (from a runner or a radio). Make sure the all clear was authorized by the Fire Department, the U of A Fire Marshall or Campus Security.

Exit Door Procedures: 

The first fire warden reaching the exit is responsible for:

  • keeping everyone outside until the ‘All clear’ is received.
  • collecting and reporting information from fire wardens exiting via that door. You will need a paper and pencil to record information from people and all fire wardens should have this with their vest.

If there is a phone at your door, the second fire warden reaching that exit uses the phone to communicate with the Main Fire Panel.

Any other fire wardens arriving at the exit assist the first two in guarding the door and communicating information to the Main panel.

Reporting to the Main panel:

  • All information from each of the fire wardens should be conveyed to the Main Fire Panel either by a fire phone, radio or via a runner.
  • The phones can call in to the main panel and will be answered from there. After picking up the phone, wait for the Main panel to respond.
  • Advise the Main Panel every 3 minutes as long as you have anything new to report.
  • Be sure to report floors cleared as well as any problems.
  • If there is no phone or radio available, then send a runner around the building to an door with a phone to report the information from your exit.

Report immediately to the Main panel if anyone is reported to have stayed in the building.
If you cannot get through by phone, send a runner.

Re-entering the Building:

The call that it is safe to return inside is only made by the Fire Department at the Main Fire Panel.

  • there is an announcement over the PA system (may not be heard if you are standing outside the building)
  • a call on the fire phone to the wardens stationed at ______________________
  • a radio message is sent to wardens with a walkie-talkie
  • a Fire Warden goes to each door and tells the wardens stationed there that it is safe to re-enter

Do Not return inside because the alarm sound has been silenced since the Fire Fighters may still be investigating the source(s)
Do Not return inside because you see a Fire Fighter leaving the building: there may be another alarm visible at the panel

After hours Procedure:
Clear your usual wing and go to an exit.

  • send a runner around the building to the designated exit to report anyone remaining in the building.
  • suggest that all evacuees walk outside to the Designated entrance/exitas that will be the first door to allow people to reenter the building once the alarm has been investigated.
  • if there is more than one warden at an exit, they may walk around to make sure other building exits are covered by a warden to keep people outside.
  • ideally, you should remain at the exit to keep people out until the All Clear is announced on the PA system or the Fire Fighters drive away.

Other Notes:

  1. All fire wardens should be prepared to act as a door reporter: collect information and transmit it to the Main panel. Make sure you carry a pencil and paper with you. Make a copy of the building floor checklist.
  2. Try to keep people away from the doorways so they don’t impede the Fire fighters.
  3. If you pick up a Fire phone, you will be answered by the Main panel (they control who to talk to so you may have to wait a few minutes).
  4. A building evacuation may be called for reasons other than a fire (e.g. gas leak or bomb threat). Just because there does not appear to be a fire does not mean there is not a problem – LEAVE whenever the alarm is activated.

Terry Penney

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