Every organisation is required to have a Warden Team or ECO (Emergency Control Organization) in their business. These are the people who are responsible for directing us out of a building in the event of an evacuation.
Their roles are more than this, it’s more than just conducting a fire drill once or twice a year and getting to wear one of those coloured hard hats or caps and vests sometimes.
So, what should we look for in ourselves if we are considering being a warden, and what should we be seeking in someone if we are considering recruiting them for the role?
An emergency includes any incident that could be a threat to life, and which also requires an immediate response. This includes dealing with a fire in your building which could require a complete evacuation of all people from the building.
There are way more emergencies than just a fire. Emergencies could be natural, human or technological. This could be a medical emergency, a flood or storm, a bomb threat or even dealing with an armed intruder. There are literally dozens of different situations that would necessitate the assistance of the wardens in your organisation.
Often, wardens will be deployed to help us shelter in place and not necessarily evacuate.
Let’s look at some of the things that all wardens need to be able to do in their role.
Key characteristics to look for in a fire warden
Wardens are in control of people’s safety during an emergency
They are authorised to instruct people to take a certain action. They have authority over even senior management during an emergency, which could include ordering other staff to immediately evacuate.
They are not there to request that their instructions be followed, but in fact, they are telling people what they must do. It doesn’t mean they can touch or move people or even cajole them, but they are in charge and they are authorised to give people instructions.
This means that you should be comfortable to assume responsibility and not shy away from telling people what to do in the case of an evacuation tone going off. Being willing and able to give clear and direct orders is a must. If this is not you, then I would not apply for the role.
Wardens are required to don a coloured hat or hard hat so that they can be identified. So many times, wardens are reluctant to do this, however, having the right apparel is important.
It helps people around you click that something is happening, and that you are the one that they should be following.
Wardens are calm under pressure
There will be adrenaline flowing, even in a drill most likely, possibly confusion and possibly a real need to be fearful. Others around you could possibly panic, although this is far from a certainty.
Being willing to be a clear communicator should be an obvious skill.
You don’t need to be a leader in your job or in life to be a good warden. You do, however, need to take on being a leader in an emergency. People will look for your guidance and your direction. Be clear, be heard, and be followed.
Wardens are thorough, organised and adaptable
An eye for detail is a must. A warden’s role is to do a sweep of their assigned area and look for the source of the emergency as well as instruct everyone in your command to evacuate. It is important to know your patch and have systems around how you will scour your area.
This could include checking toilets. In essence, you will need to check every little part of your space.
Things can change in an instant during an emergency, so being adaptable is crucial. The exit that you normally direct people to use may now not be safe. A quick and accurate decision outside of what you are accustomed to may need to be made.
As with any responsible role, the ability to take direction and to report to your leader is essential.
Wardens are required to direct people away from danger, but their other role is to report to the chief warden that everyone in their specific area is out safely and accounted for.
Wardens are not there to put themselves in danger
They are not required to drag someone out of a room full of smoke. They are not required to put out fires. They are there to help people keep safe in an emergency.
If a warden oversees an area which has 20 staff and put themselves in danger, then how are they going to help their colleagues if they now need rescuing?
Looking after yourself first is the way to ensure you are equipped to help other people. In the end that is the role, to help your co-workers remain safe whatever the emergency.
Being a warden is a privilege and should never be a burden. It is an opportunity to grow personally and practice some invaluable leadership skills. It is also an opportunity to help save lives by being someone who cares and is willing to be a leader in what could be a life-threatening situation. It is a role worth signing up for.