Social distancing must be maintained amid the COVID-19 pandemic, even when conducting a fire drill, according to the Calgary Fire Department in Alberta.

“During the pandemic, it would be acceptable for fire drills to be conducted with supervisory personnel present, taking into consideration social distancing to complete any fire warden training which may include an evacuation table top exercise,” said the department in a memo released addressing their expectations amid the pandemic.

However, “if the company or organization cannot ensure social distancing an additional option would be to complete online training as developed by the company or organization and to ensure that records are kept regarding details of training and personnel involved,” the memo continued.

Also, any fire drills or warden training that fall under any other portion of the National Fire Code (Alberta Edition) can be conducted in the same manner as long as personnel are following the guidelines as set out by Alberta Health – COVID relaunch strategy.

The department noted that the memo was released to address questions raised about fire drills, their frequency and the expectations from the local authority having jurisdiction.

Fire code

Under the said fire code, the procedure for conducting fire drills shall be determined by the person in responsible charge of the building, taking into consideration the following:

● the building occupancy and its fire hazards

● the safety features provided in the building

● the desirable degree of participation of occupants other than supervisory staff

● the number and degree of experience of participating supervisory staff

● the features of fire emergency systems installed in buildings within the scope of subsection 3.2.6. of Division B of the NBC(AE)

● the requirements of the fire department


“A fire safety plan is of little value if it is not reviewed periodically so that all supervisory staff remain familiar with their responsibilities,” according to the code. “A fire drill, then, is at least a review of the fire safety plan by supervisory staff. The extent to which non-supervisory staff participate in a fire drill should be worked out in cooperation with the fire department. The decision as to whether all occupants should leave the building during a fire drill should be based on the nature of the occupancy.”

The code indicated that it may be necessary to hold additional fire drills outside normal working hours for the benefit of employees on afternoon or night shifts, as they “should be as familiar with fire drill procedures as those who work during the day”.

If full-scale fire drills are not possible during non-regular working hours, arrangements should be made so that night-shift supervisory staff can participate in fire drills conducted during the daytime.

Under the code, fire drills shall be held at intervals not greater than 12 months for the supervisory staff, but there are some exceptions:

● in day-care centers and in Group B major occupancies, such drills shall be held at intervals not greater than one month

● in schools attended by children, total evacuation fire drills shall be held at least three times in each of the fall and spring school terms

● in buildings within the scope of Subsection 3.2.6. of Division B of the NBC(AE), such drills shall be held at intervals not greater than two months.

● in laboratories, it shall be held at intervals not greater than three months