How to Plan a Fire Drill

Fire evacuation drills develop rapid response skills for building occupants and vulnerable populations. Drills provide the opportunity to familiarize building features, exists, assembly points, emergency contacts, procedures, hazards, and team protocols. 

The Campus Fire Marshal and the Director of Emergency Management serve two roles for drill planning.

Campus Fire Marshal
Manages the regulated residential fire evacuation drills and high risk units.

Director of Emergency Management
Assist departments in pre-planning and the facilitation of administrative unit fire evacuation drills.

Guidelines on how to plan a fire drill and what steps are necessary to ensure that your drill is as effective as possible.

Part 1 - Pre-Drill Planning

One of your first steps is to assign roles within your department and building.  These members will be expected to fulfill duties related to these roles before, during, and after an emergency event.  These roles are:

  • Building Emergency Coordinator - Recruits and coordinates an evacuation team of Floor Marshals and a backup Building Emergency Coordinator. Completes the Building Emergency Plan, collaborates on annual drills, facilitates access and functional need requests, leads assembly area activities, serves as a communication liaison and relays critical information during an emergency.
  • Floor Marshal - Facilitates access and functional needs to persons with disabilities and assists in coordinating evacuation, roll call, and sheltering in the event of an emergency.

A fire drill should test both your members and your department's established Emergency Action Plan.  This plan serves as a collection of procedures, contacts, and crucial information relevant to your department and to be followed thoroughly in the event of an emergency.  The template for an Emergency Action Plan can help you get started.

Additionally, you will need to determine which component of the Office of Emergency Services you will need to contact for your fire drill.  See the following table to determine your point of contact:

Contact for Campus Evacuation Drills
Type of Unit Who to Contact Contact Information
Residential Facilities Fire Marshal 
Non-Residential Facilities Emergency Manager 

Your point of contact can assist you in navigating the steps to starting a fire drill and ensuring their effectiveness for your community.

You will also need to select an appropriate time for your fire drill.  The annual Drill Calendar is provided below for your reference:

Calendar or campus drills
Month Unit(s)
June Coastal Sciences
July Kerr Hall
August Engineering
September Residential Units PBSci

The final part of your preparation phase should be coordinating with the Fire Alarm Shop and funding the drill overall.  Your point of contact at the Alarm Shop will be Russell See at or (831) 459-5523.  Follow these steps for ensuring that your drill is logistically set up:

  1. Request a work order for the Fire Alarm Shop to support drills per location.
  2. Verify the time and dates of the drill with the Fire Alarm Shop to ensure availability.
  3. Ensure that the appropriate amount of funds are set aside for working the drills.

As of May 2019, the following estimates are made for fire drill work including tripping and resetting the alarms.  These rates assume that it will take approximately one hour of work to operate a drill per site.

Financial allocation for fire drills.
Time of Drill Rate
Regular Hours (M-F 0700 - 1530) $94/site
Overtime Hours (After 1530, Minimum 4 hrs) $451.28/all sites

Part 2 - What to Expect on Drill Day

When you initiate a drill, it is important to be as observant as possible regarding all of the interactions that are taking place to facilitate your emergency procedures.  Record times, obstructions, unforeseen challenges, and points of confusion for discussion later on.

This is also an opportunity to see how the Floor Marshal and Building Emergency Coordinator handle their responsibilities.  The individuals serving in these roles should be especially observant in determining which of their responsibilities that they are confidently able to achieve and what they find particularly challenging.

For the Building Emergency Coordinators, they should be familiar with leading an evacuation, capable of directing people to appropriate assembly areas, and manage accountability of occupants affected by the evacuation.  Additionally, they will be expected to provide rapid communication to the building's occupants, to first responders, and campus' emergency management team. A complete list of duties can be found in the Building Emergency Coordinator PPT presentation. 

For the Floor Marshal, they should be familiar with their zones, exit routes and fire alarm pull stations.  Additionally, they should be capable of performing sweeps for non-evacuated people, directing people to immediately exit, maintain crowd control, keep the roads clear, and other responsibilities outlined in the Floor Marshal Manual.

Both of these positions have a special focus on providing functional needs and assistance to persons with disabilities.  It is imperative that the individuals serving in these roles carry out those tasks quickly and attentively.

Part 3 - Post Drill Review and Improvements

After the drill concludes, a debriefing should commence that addresses the following questions:

  1. Did all of the occupants hear or see the triggered alarm?
  2. Did all of the occupants leave the affected structures in a timely manner?
  3. Was the egress of occupants during the drill hindered in any way?
  4. Was the roll call of occupants successfully completed?
  5. Did the Building Emergency Coordinators and Floor Marshals understand their role and perform their responsibilities as needed?

Using the answers to these questions as a basis, start planning improvements and reach out to affected parties to ensure that future drills avoid any of the concerns brought up in the debrief.  For example, a problem with the fire alarm should be reported to the Fire Alarm Shop, a procedure oversight should be reported to the Emergency Manager, and confusion regarding roles and responsibilities can be addressed by taking the appropriate training on the UC Learning Center (keyword: Office of Emergency Services).

These steps are established to help you prepare for these drills in a way that will be beneficial to your unit or department.  If you have any questions or comments about these steps, please feel free to reach out to the Office of Emergency Services at