Evacuation Plans & Procedures
An Accurate Review White Paper, Fall 2017
By: Glenn Laaspere, NCARB
Every Building Needs One; Here's How to Make One
Evacuation plans and procedures save lives. In an emergency situation, disorganized evacuation results in confusion which could cause unnecessary property damage, injury or even death. When developing your evacuation plan and procedures, it is important to consider the following:
1. When are evacuations necessary?
2. When is it better to shelter-in-place?
3. Is there a clear chain of command within your organization?
4. Where are your building exits and what are the routes to get there?
5. Are there different procedures for employees versus patrons?
6. Do there need to be special provisions to accommodate those with disabilities?
7. Are there specific operations or equipment that require manual shutdown?
8. Do you have a means for accounting occupants after an evacuation?
9. Do you have emergency protection provisions and are they easily accessible?
Conditions Under Which An Evacuation Would Be Necessary:
Evacuation plans are not always triggered by fires; there are many different types of natural and unnatural events that may require a building to be evacuated for life-safety. Natural disasters such as tornadoes will require different protocols for life-safety than fires. Instead of evacuating all occupants away from the building, a tornado might require all occupants to seek shelter in a basement or an otherwise secure space with maximum structural support. An active shooter might require all occupants to barricade and shelter in place while waiting for authorities to intervene. It is important to develop a thorough set of plans and procedures that consider the full spectrum of possible evacuation and life-safety events.
How to Develop an Emergency Action Plan:
It is essential that the emergency action plan developed be site specific with respect to emergency conditions evaluated, evacuation policies and procedures, emergency reporting mechanisms, and alarm systems.
The best emergency action plans include employees in the planning process, specify what employees should do during an emergency, and ensure that employees receive proper training for emergencies. When you include your employees in your planning, encourage them to offer suggestions about potential hazards, worst-case scenarios, and proper emergency responses. After you develop the plan, review it with your employees to make sure everyone knows what to do before, during, and after an emergency. Keep a copy of your emergency action plan in a convenient location where employees can get to it, or provide a copy to all employees.
Designate an Authority:
It is common practice to select a responsible individual to lead and coordinate your emergency plan and evacuation. It is critical that employees know who the coordinator is and understand that this person has the authority to make decisions during emergencies. The coordinator should be responsible for assessing the situation to determine whether an emergency exists requiring activation of the emergency procedures, overseeing emergency procedures, notifying and coordinating with outside emergency services, and directing shutdown of utilities or plant operations if necessary.
Evacuation Plan and Procedure Maintenance:
It is a good idea to hold practice evacuation drills. Evacuation drills permit employees to become familiar with the emergency procedures, their egress routes, and assembly locations, so that if an actual emergency should occur, they will respond properly. Drills should be conducted as often as necessary to keep employees prepared. Include outside resources, such as fire and police departments, when possible. After each drill, gather management and employees to evaluate the effectiveness of the drill. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of your plan and work to improve it.
Operations and personnel change frequently, and an outdated plan will be of little use in an emergency. You should review the contents of your plan regularly and update it whenever an employee's emergency actions or responsibilities change, or when there is a change in the layout or design of the facility, new equipment, hazardous materials, or processes are introduced that affect evacuation routes, or new types of hazards are introduced that require special actions. The most common outdated item in plans is the facility and agency contact information. Consider placing this important information on a separate page in the front of the plan so that it can be readily updated.
General evacuation plan and procedure training should address the following:
1. Individual roles and responsibilities.
2. Threats, hazards, and protective actions.
3. Notification, warning, and communications procedures.
4. Means for locating family members in an emergency.
5. First Aid Kit
6. Emergency response procedures.
7. Evacuation, shelter, and accountability procedures.
8. Location and use of common emergency equipment.
9. Emergency shutdown procedures.
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