The ability to effectively evacuate staff, clients and visitors can save lives. Having evacuation procedures avoids confusion and possible injury during an emergency situation.
There are two evacuation types to consider:
- Immediate evacuation - an evacuation resulting from a hazard impact that forces immediate action, giving little or no warning and limited preparation time. For example, hazardous materials accidents, bushfires or earthquake.
- Pre-warned evacuation - an evacuation resulting from an event that provides adequate warning and does not unduly limit preparation time. For example, flood, cyclone and storm surge.
Considerations when creating your evacuation procedures
Decide what circumstances would trigger an evacuation.
- Develop a clear chain of command and designation of the person in your business authorised to order an evacuation or shutdown. As the business owner, this may be your responsibility.
- Develop specific evacuation procedures, including both primary and secondary evacuation routes and exits. Create floor plans that feature these.
- Designate which, if any, employees will remain after the evacuation alarm to shut down critical operations, lock doors or perform other duties before evacuating.
- Designate assembly points for staff and clients to gather after evacuating beyond your 'normal' fire assembly points.
- Include copies of building and site maps within your crisis management plan and also at an off-site location.
- Develop procedures for dealing with any hazardous materials.
- Determine, purchase and provide any special equipment needed by employees.
- Systems for alerting staff and clients, including information on chosen assembly points on the day and a distinctive alarm.
- Procedures for assisting visitors and employees to evacuate, particularly those with disabilities, who do not speak English or do not have private transport.
- A system of accounting for and communicating with staff and clients after an evacuation. Remember during a major incident, mobile phone networks may not be operating as normal.
Prepare an emergency 'grab bag' or kit to be used in the event of evacuation of your premises.
Contents may include:
- Spare batteries
- Mobile phone and charger
- Essential phone numbers
- Your business continuity plan
- Essential documents
- Bottled water
- First aid kit.
Practise your evacuation procedures
Once you have evacuation procedures in place, make regular drills part of your business. This helps staff familiarise themselves with evacuations and gives you a chance to review your existing procedures.
For leased properties, the building owner and other tenants should be committed to coordinating and practising evacuation procedures together.