Q: Can an actual fire alarm count as a fire drill? If I have the fire alarm go off for some reason, I would then want to make it count for a drill since the chimes and strobes when off. I have an accreditation surveyor who said that an actual alarm could not count.
A: An actual alarm on the fire alarm system may count as a drill, but only if you evaluate the response of the staff, the building, and the fire alarm system. In a normal drill, you would have observers evaluating that the staff responded correctly, that the doors closed, and the strobes and horns operated properly. For an actual alarm (false or otherwise) count as a drill, you need to evaluate all of those items if you want it to count as a drill. As you can imagine, that does not happen very often so most actual alarms are not used as drills because the evaluation of the staff, the building, and the fire alarm system was not conducted.
Brad Keyes, CHSP, is the owner of KEYES Life Safety Compliance, and his expertise is in the management of the Life Safety Program, including the Environment of Care and Emergency Management programs.