The fundamental reason for fire drills is to organize a plan before disaster strikes.
1. Has everyone escaped the building?
2. Have the fire department or responders been called with all the location information they need?
3. Is someone serving as a signal at the road to wave in the responders?
4. Are there adequate personnel to direct the responders to the site of the fire without getting in the way?
5. Does someone have a list of chemicals and supplies anticipated to be involved or potentially involved in the fire?
Start with the first fundamental: set up a meeting place or places to roll call employees. This task is completed quickly by having each operational group handle their own personnel. Do not count people, roll call.
Have groups of seven to ten people gather and assure all are present. Have one person from each of those groups report to one person. No one need count more than ten people this way, and this process should be complete and specific.
Any visitor to the building should be escorted through the system by the person last with them.
Just get out and account for everyone, then move to step two through five. But have the personnel assigned ahead of time. Panic or stressful situations are a bad time to get organized.
Why not fight the fire with extinguishers?
Absolutely do: trash can fires, small electrical fires, friction fires in machinery. Easily accessible, extinguisher immediately available, small contained fires can be extinguished quickly and effectively. Extinguish the fire and leave the building.
Clear the building anyway. You’ll lose a few minutes of production time, but the live drill will be safety reinforcing and, just in case you’re wrong about the extent of the fire or the chemical release due to the fire, you’ll be safe.
Place fire extinguishers with two thoughts in mind:
1. Easy access and availability to put out fires.
2. Easy access to help fight the way to an exit.
How does the second reason sound compared to getting out before the spread of a fire that looked contained?