There are times when an evacuation, (being a last resort) is required and necessary to safeguard human life.
You need to prepare for such possibilities and have adequate insurance:
Do you have insurance policies in place to cover property damage?
Are employee Medical schemes in place to address possible injuries?
Is the business insured against any physical or personal liabilities?
What about the financial implications of a total loss?
Do you still have enough capital for business continuity?
Think long and hard about the different scenarios that can play out in the event of:
Preparation and the implementation of processes and procedures to follow during the event can save lives and your business.
Natural and other types of threats can cause panic, which is why a carefully crafted and often rehearsed evacuation plan is essential.
OSHA has identified crucial elements that must be included in your evacuation plan.
This post is about implementing an evacuation plan, not only for your home, but for your business too.
We’ve adapted it to include visitors you might have on your premises.
To help you in your planning, here’s an additional Emergency Response Plan checklist from the Department of Homeland Security.
What You Need in an Evacuation Plan?
1. The Right Condition
Not all buildings are the same and each person must identify the types of building they live in and also make note of the hazards involved in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency situation.
By understanding the hazards related to the building, the owner/tenant can then verify if an evacuation is called for or not.
Make sure that your plan specifies the exact conditions requiring evacuation.
2. Hunker Down or Run
In certain circumstances, it’s better not to venture outside:
Gale Force Wind
In these situations it’s best to stay indoors, preferably the basement where there are no windows. You should be pretty safe here.
3. Line of command
In every situation (especially an emergency response like an evacuation) there needs to be a leader and subsequent team leaders and supervisors that people can report to.
People also need to know who is responsible for what, so that they can offer help if they can.
Here are questions you should consider in your line of command:
Who decides to evacuate the building?
Who is in charge of each section?
Who is going to activate the alarm?
Who will call 911?
Who will work with first responders?
Who is going to issue gas masks?
Who is going to do the head count?
Who is going to usher people out and check all rooms?
There are plenty more questions you can get on this list. Decide which tasks to create and who to delegate to.
Once you’ve delegated tasks, it’s time to teach the people assigned what their responsibilities are.
Make sure they’re adequately trained with lots of follow up and refresher training periodically.
Let everyone in your business and your immediate community know about the responsible person’s role.
Also, go find out who you will report to in your own home, business or building.
4. Evacuation Procedure
Now that we know who is responsible for what, we need to know how people are going to evacuate.
Draw a plan and mark every exit, fire hose, fire extinguisher, ladders, stairwells, buckets of sand and any water outlets.
Install signs pointing people in the right direction, clearly mark firefighting equipment and any other tools that might be helpful, making sure to use glow in the dark paint.
Make sure all escape routes are clear of obstructions.
You need a place for everyone to get together outside the building so that a headcount can be done.
There should be an assembly point a safe distance from the building so that team leaders can usher people there.
During all your drills and evacuation training, make sure that everyone is familiar with the process and where everyone must go when they exit the building.
Staff Registers must be kept up to date.
Supervisors and team leaders will need to have access to a printout or an app in order to do a roll call to ensure that everyone is accounted for.
4. High-rise Evacuation
High-rise buildings pose a significant challenge in planned evacuations.
The installation of evacuation plans, identifying and training personnel on each floor and making sure everyone is accounted for, are some of the most important of these responsibilities.
When it comes to accessing visitor information to a building, digital software often makes it easier to track and trace people.
This type of software helps you quickly create a visitor checklist so that you can check it off as you locate people and get them out.
5. Visitors and Employees
It’s often a good idea to give responsible people (Evacuation Supervisors) the right amount of other people to check on in the event of an emergency. By rule of thumb, 20 seems to be the right number.
The 20 could include employees and visitors.
The evacuation supervisor checks offices, closes fire barriers, etc. The supervisor also checks the visitor register to ensure all visitors, unfamiliar with the building evacuate safely.
7. Skeleton Staff
In the event of an evacuation, it isn’t always possible to shut everything down and walk away. In Manufacturing and production businesses, this often applies.
Staff often need to be kept in place to monitor machinery and critical components involved in the manufacturing process.
If you’re in this industry and have employees that may be impacted by the need to evacuate, they need to know the procedure to follow in order to evacuate safely if the need arises.
8. Account for all people
Access control software makes this easy to do.
OSHA recommends designating assembly areas for people to go to after exiting a building.
Headcounts must be done for all employees and visitors in the case of evacuation.
These procedures might not account for everyone.
For example, the evacuation supervisor might know that 13 people work on floor 7, but didn’t know that 2 visitors were in the building getting a guided tour from someone.
That’s where an access control system has its’ advantages.
It’s quick and easy to get visitor information from a software system that’s tracked the movement of the visitor from the moment they came in the gate.
An access control program can provide a cloud-based visitor log that your evacuation supervisor can access from anywhere at any time.
This can help them quickly view the logs on their phone or tablet so that they can make sure everyone‚ not just the employees—are safely out of the building.
9. Specific Equipment
In some situations, you may need to supply PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) to your staff and visitors.
This might include, but isn’t limited to:
Safety glasses, goggles, or face shields
Hard hats and safety shoes
Chemical suits, gloves, hoods, and boots
Special body protection for abnormal environmental conditions
This should be part of your evacuation plan checklist.
Make sure you have adequate stock of everything on hand. (Enough to supply every person on your premises)
Storage locations and access to keys for extraction must be clearly marked on the evacuation plan.
Respirators are Hazard specific and thus, don’t fall under general PPE. There are four categories of respirators.
11. Incident Reporting
Once everything is over and a semblance of normality returns, someone has to report the matter to the relevant authorities.
Who is going to gather all the relevant information? A procedure for the collection and collation of the information into a detailed report should be created.
Preferably use a standard template to make this work for your business.
Start off with a generic reporting template, then refine it to your needs as time passes.
Things to bear in mind, or questions to ask yourself to start gathering the required information:
What condition arose that gave the need to evacuate
Were there any injuries
Was there any loss of life
Was there damage to property
Were the processes followed
Was there adequate equipment
Did supervisors conduct the process properly
What is the estimated damage cost
What is the estimated damage to production time and loss
You could extend this list quite a bit.
It all depends on your business, because each one is different. Create processes and procedures that make sense for your business and make sure that everyone understands them completely.
A natural or other serious event may test your courage in a time of great pressure.
But, by remaining calm, sticking to processes and following the training you’ve received over the days, months and years leading up to this point, you and those around you can make it through.
The main thing is to continually train, rehearse and refresh the systems and processes.
See where the flaws are, fix them, refine everything and then keep testing.
You want these processes and procedures to be such common knowledge and so ingrained in the people on your premises that they act naturally and instinctively in the right manner when an event does happen. (Because they’ve prepared for this)
Have anything to add? Did you learn anything from this? We would love to hear from you and would also love to know what you think about our content.
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