In this module, you will learn how to be prepared to handle any emergency that may arise in your work environment. Preparation is the key to minimizing the effects of an emergency. We encourage you to review this vital information on a regular basis to ensure that you are up to date and know what to do. An emergency is not the time to ask yourself where you should go or what you should do. The time to get ready is now!

By the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

Topics include:

Module 6: Fires and Other Emergencies

While [insert your department’s[1] name] strives to keep your work environment safe, fires and other emergencies can happen (e.g., power outages, spills, bomb threats, or threats of violence).

It is extremely important for you to be prepared for such events.

Each staffed [insert your department’s name] workplace has specific measures and procedures in place to deal with these events. If you work on a ship, in the field or if you work alone, special requirements may apply to you. If special requirements apply to you, make sure to ask your supervisor about them.

What you need to know

If you do not know about the emergency plan or procedures for your workplace, ask your supervisor. An emergency plan has detailed procedures for responding to emergencies.

Here’s a list of the things you need to know:

Section 17.10 of the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations requires that all employees participate in emergency response drills. These drills give you a first-hand opportunity to see exactly what would happen, and what you would have to do if there really were an emergency. Remember, you must evacuate the building when advised to do so.

As required under section 17.7 of the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, the chief emergency wardens are appointed by the employer, and are responsible for ensuring that emergency and evacuation plans are in place for the facility. The chief emergency warden is in charge of the response to an emergency or the evacuation of the facility.

Emergency floor wardens are individuals who have been appointed or who have volunteered to ensure that everyone is out of the building in the event of an emergency. They will direct you to leave the building. They will only leave the building to report to the chief emergency warden when the floor has been cleared. Please ensure that you respect their direction at all times.

If you are mobility-impaired, confined to a wheelchair or have a medical condition that requires you to have assistance when exiting the facility if an elevator is not available, whether this assistance is temporary or permanent, special arrangements can be made for you. Notify your manager or supervisor immediately, and a monitor will be assigned to you to ensure that you have assistance in leaving the building during an emergency. Do not wait for an emergency to happen, take action now.

Use and operation of fire protection and emergency equipment

When fire strikes, the potential for injury to people and damage to property is tremendously high. Fire extinguishers are designed to put out or control small fires. A small fire, if not checked immediately, will soon spread out of control. Therefore, it is important that your workplace is equipped with proper fire extinguishers as part of the building emergency and evacuation plan. It’s also the law.

If you discover a fire

Fires can be very dangerous, and you should always be certain that you will not endanger yourself or others when attempting to put out a fire.

For this reason when a fire is discovered:

When not to fight a fire

Remember, never fight a fire if you don’t know what is burning.

If you don’t know what is burning, you don’t know what type of extinguisher to use. Even if you have an ABC extinguisher, there may be something in the fire that is going to explode or produce highly toxic smoke. Chances are that you will know what’s burning or at least have a pretty good idea. But if you don’t know, let the fire department handle it.

Remember, never fight a fire if the fire is spreading rapidly beyond the spot where it started.

The time to use an extinguisher is in the beginning stages of a fire. If the fire is already spreading quickly, it is best to simply evacuate the building, closing doors and windows behind you as you leave.

Remember, never fight a fire if your instincts tell you not to.

If you are uncomfortable with the situation for any reason (for example, you should never fight a fire if you have not been trained on the use and operation of fire protection equipment), just let the fire department do their job.

Remember, never fight a fire if you cannot escape.

The final rule is to always position yourself with an exit or means of escape at your back before you attempt to use an extinguisher to put out a fire. In case the extinguisher malfunctions or something unexpected happens, you need to be able to get out quickly, and you don’t want to become trapped.

Rules to remember

Before deciding to fight the fire, keep these rules in mind:

The fire tetrahedron

In order to understand how a fire extinguisher works, you first need to know a little bit about fire. Four things must be present at the same time in order to produce fire:

Oxygen, heat, and fuel are frequently referred to as the “fire triangle.” Add in the fourth element, the chemical reaction, and you have a “fire tetrahedron.” The important thing to remember is that if you take any of these four things away, you will not have a fire, or the fire will be extinguished.

Essentially, fire extinguishers put out fires by taking away one or more elements of the fire tetrahedron.

Fire safety, at its most basic, is based upon the principle of keeping fuel sources and ignition sources separate.

Classification of fuels and fires

Not all fuels are the same, and if you use the wrong type of fire extinguisher on the wrong type of fuel, you can, in fact, make matters worse. It is therefore very important to understand the different classifications of fuels and fires.

Some types of fire-extinguishing agents can be used on more than one class of fire. Others have warnings about where it would be dangerous for the operator to use a particular fire-extinguishing agent.

Most fire extinguishers will have a pictograph label telling you which fuel the extinguisher is designed to fight. For example, a simple water extinguisher might have a label indicating that it should only be used on Class A fuels, such as wood, paper and cloth.

Types of fire extinguishers

Below is a summary of common extinguishers.

Table: comparison of common extinguishers

Type of fuel

Type of extinguisher


Foam spray

ABC powder

Carbon dioxide

Wet chemical

Wood, paper, cloth






Flammable liquids






Flammable gases






Electrical contact






Cooking oils and fats








Foam spray

ABC powder

Carbon dioxide

Wet chemical

Shelter in place

Shelter-in-place is a precaution to help keep you safe by securing the building and having you remain indoors. You may be instructed to shelter in place in the event of an ongoing situation outside, which is not related to the building. Such situations may include criminal activity, such as a bank robbery nearby, or extreme weather conditions or environmental situations, such as the accidental or intentional release of dangerous substances into the atmosphere.

Notification of a shelter-in-place is communicated over your building’s voice communication system, as well as by email or by telephone.

When you shelter in place:

If instructed to shelter in place:


A lockdown is an emergency protocol that uses temporary sheltering techniques to secure and protect people inside a facility during a situation that is potentially violent or that could endanger lives. In such a situation, it may be more dangerous to evacuate a building than to stay inside. By controlling entry, exit and movement within a facility, emergency personnel are better able to contain and handle any threats.

Notification of a lockdown is typically communicated over your building’s voice communication system, as well as by email or by telephone.

If you believe there is an imminent threat of violence that could result in loss of life or serious injury, take immediate action. Seek shelter immediately and, if possible, alert those around you by calling 9-1-1 and [insert the phone number of your department’s security services].

If instructed to lockdown:

If you are outside the building during a lockdown:

Lockdown drill procedures

The purpose of a drill is to provide you with an opportunity to practise emergency response procedures.

When the beginning of the drill is announced:

If you are in an enclosed area (office, filing room, boardroom):

If you are in an open area (corridor, cubicle, public space) and have access to an enclosed space:

If you are in an open area (corridor, cubicle, public space) and do not have access to an enclosed space:

Actions to avoid:

In the event of a real-life emergency during the drill:

Table: Reminder – Emergency Procedures During a Lockdown


Description of procedure

Actions for this procedure

1. Run

If possible, get out!

  • Leave personal belongings behind.
  • Visualize an entire escape route.
  • Keep hands visible, fingers spread apart.
  • Call 9-1-1 when you are safe.

2. Hide

If you can’t run, avoid detection.

  • Use a lockable office if possible, and lock and barricade the door.
  • Turn off the lights.
  • If there are no lockable offices, hide in an inconspicuous area, such as under a desk or behind a cubicle wall, where you are not visible from hallways and common routes of travel.
  • Silence cellphones, including vibrate mode.
  • Stay away from doors and windows.
  • Remain silent.
  • Wait for instructions from law enforcement.

3. Defend

As a last resort, be aggressive and forceful.

  • Use whatever means necessary to prevent harm.
  • Use any object at your disposal (scissors, fire extinguishers, chairs).
  • Act as a group to overwhelm the intruder.
  • Commit to the action.


Quiz – Module 6: Fires and Other Emergencies

  1. Identify three things you need to know in the event of an emergency.
    1. The specific types of emergencies that may occur at your work site, and the procedures of how to respond to these emergencies
    2. The locations of alarms, such as fire alarms and panic alarms (where applicable), and how to use them
    3. Evacuation routes to safe areas
    4. The location of the safe area
    5. The all-clear and re-entry procedures
  2. What is the role of the emergency response warden?
    1. To assist people in leaving the work area
    2. To ensure that the work area is clear, and report to the chief emergency warden
    3. To ensure that the chief emergency warden is informed of who is at the muster location
    4. All of the above
  3. What should you do when an alarm sounds?
    1. Determine whether it is a real event or a drill before leaving
    2. Leave the building immediately
    3. Wait for direction to leave the building
  4. What is the first thing you should do when you suspect or see fire?
    1. Sound the alarm
    2. Evacuate the building
    3. Inform your manager
  5. Before an emergency, what are my responsibilities as an employee?
    1. Familiarize myself with my team’s emergency procedures and meeting point
    2. Know my environment and have a plan
    3. If I have a medical condition or disability that requires me to get help with emergency procedures, I should mention it

Module 6: Going further than that…

You are invited to enhance your skills and knowledge by consulting the following.

Video on GCcampus

Courses offered by the Canada School of Public Service

Courses offered by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS)

Reference material (GCintranet)

Preparing for emergencies and evacuation of buildings: A guide for federal departments


[1] In this training package, “department” is generally used to refer to federal departments and agencies.