Shoppers at George Yard, Braintree, had to abandon their unpaid for goods and leave the shopping centre today during a practice evacuation.
George Yard manager Brenda Baker said: "It was just a practice evacuation, we do it every year.
"We are obliged to have a fire drill every now and then and that's what we were doing.
"We did it in 10 minutes which was the fastest we have ever done it.
"We picked a quiet day and a fairly quiet time to do it to minimise the inconvenience to everybody."
The drill took place at 3 pm and the centre was reopened shortly after.