Most of us enjoy a trip to the shopping centre for a bit of retail therapy every so often, however, most of us never really stop to think about what might happen in case of a fire.  A recent blaze at the Westfields shopping centre in Liverpool which started in a shoe store, resulted in the evacuation of 1000 shoppers.  A number of shoppers were treated for smoke inhalation, however the outcome could have been far worse had there been no evacuation plan.  Let’s explore why shopping centre and store owners must prioritise fire evacuation plans and ensure the well-being of everyone on their premises.

Protecting lives is the top priority

The foremost reason for having a fire evacuation plan is to protect lives. Shopping centres are often crowded with shoppers, employees, and sometimes even residents. In the event of a fire, quick and organised evacuation is essential to ensure that everyone can exit the building safely. Lives are at stake, and a well thought out plan can be the difference between life and death.

Fire spreads rapidly

Fires in commercial buildings can spread with alarming speed. Modern shopping centres are filled with combustible materials, from merchandise to furnishings. A small fire can quickly escalate into a raging inferno if not promptly contained and controlled. A well-prepared evacuation plan can help minimise the time people are exposed to the dangers of a spreading fire.

Minimising panic and chaos

In the face of a fire, panic and chaos are natural reactions. People may not think clearly, and irrational behaviour can occur. An effective evacuation plan, communicated clearly through signage and training, can help minimise panic by providing guidance on what to do and where to go. This reduces the risk of stampedes or other dangerous crowd behaviour.

Preventing injuries and property damage

During a fire, injuries can occur not only from the flames but also from smoke inhalation, falls, or being caught in the rush to escape. A well-designed evacuation plan includes measures to ensure that people can exit the building safely and efficiently, reducing the risk of injury. Fire evacuation plans also help protect the shopping centre itself. Quick evacuation and effective fire response can prevent extensive property damage, reducing the financial impact on the shopping centre owner.

Coordinate with emergency responders

When a fire breaks out, quick response from firefighters and other emergency services is crucial. A well-documented evacuation plan helps these responders understand the layout of the shopping centre, including access points, utility shut-offs, and potential hazards. This knowledge enables them to respond more effectively, potentially saving more lives and limiting property damage.

It’s the law

There are strict regulations regarding fire safety in commercial buildings, including shopping centres. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in fines, lawsuits, and even closure of the shopping centre. For example, the Australian Standard AS3745: Planning for Emergencies in Facilities states that evacuation plans must contain evacuation diagrams situated through common areas and in general paths of travel, evacuation diagrams must:

  • show the location of fire equipment, designated exit points, emergency assembly points and evacuation routes
  • be displayed in obvious positions along the evacuation route of the facility
  • be oriented based on the layout of the building
  • be reviewed every five years.

Are you covered?

Insurance companies often require shopping centre owners to have fire evacuation plans in place. Without such a plan, insurance coverage may be compromised, leaving the owner liable for the full cost of fire-related damages.


Fire evacuation plans are critical in times of crisis. They are the difference between injury and safety, and, in the worst-case scenario, between life and death. By making the safety of visitors and employees a priority, shopping centre owners protect their investments and reputation. Fire evacuation plans are not an expense; they are an investment in the well-being of everyone who steps foot in the shopping centre.

For guidance on fire evacuation on your premises, contact the expert team at Global Fire today. Call us now on 1300 88 70 18 or email