evac-lightingEven though everybody knows that emergency could occur when it’s least expected, the majority of people are skeptical about it ever happening to them. Yet, the truth is that such situations might strike anytime and anywhere. For example, New South Wales in a given year can have over 33,000 fires with almost 18,000 non-fire incidents such as floods & natural disasters that the fire brigade will be asked to attend.

This is why experts always emphasize the importance of addressing emergency issues in advance and being prepared for the hazard properly is more than just having an escape route or a working fire extinguisher.

It is a must to have the entire plan worked out – from the first second the accident happens until the moment the entire problem is resolved.

What is an Emergency Evacuation Plan?

An emergency evacuation plan, or an emergency plan outlined by Australian Standard 3745 – 2010 Planning for Emergencies in Facilities, is a written document designed to organise people’s actions in crisis situation. It covers all designated steps that one needs to take in order to ensure fast and successful actions. When backed up with adequate employee training, an emergency plan enables significantly higher overall safety and ensures fewer injuries and structural damages in the facility during the accident. The plan should clearly point out the role of every single person in the building and explain how to quickly yet safely get away from danger.

For all these reasons, an emergency plan needs to be specific and well-structured. Otherwise, it might cause confusion and lead to the failures of catastrophic dimensions. This can, in turn, lead to additional casualties, injuries and property damages.

In order to prevent such things from happening, it is vital that everyone understands the importance of the emergency evacuation planning, as well as to be familiar with every aspect it covers.

An Emergency Evacuation Plan may include;

  • Site specific requirements
  • Warden register
  • Building occupancy details
  • Medical emergency instructions
  • Evacuation strategy
  • Persons with special needs
  • Fire disaster solutions
  • First aid guide
  • Civil disorder
  • Workplace conflict
  • Building services procedure
  • Emergency needs analysis

The Implementation of an Emergency Plan & Emergency Planning Committee

An Emergency Planning Committee (EPC) is accountable for emergency planning for a facility, its occupants and visitors. An EPC is responsible for putting together a comprehensive emergency evacuation plan by defining and evaluating the circumstances that are specific for the particular facility. This involves the assessment of both the physical workplace and people’s response to different types of emergencies, taking into account a specific facility layout, structural features and specific emergency systems.

Organizing training and education programs. Drafting an emergency plan is not enough to ensure the safety of occupants in a building. Namely, the plan is only applicable if its content is up to date and residents or employees are adequately informed of the plan.

Therefore, all the occupants should be instructed in different forms of emergencies that may occur and trained in accordance with them. In this part of the training, participants are informed of all the factors that might determine the outcomes of a disaster, such as the size of the building, materials used, as well as the availability of onsite and outside resources.

Creating rescue teams. One of the most critical steps in this process is choosing a trustworthy individual who is capable of supervising the entire process of evacuation. It is very important that everyone knows who the coordinator is, and understands that they have the authority to make decisions in any hazardous situation. The coordinator is responsible for assessing the problem, determining whether the real emergency exists and organising outside emergency services.

Installing diagrams of the evacuation route. Today, having a floor plan is compulsory for the majority of residential and corporate buildings. Since its main purpose is to point out the potential evacuation exits inside the building and help everything run smoothly during the process of evacuation, this diagram needs to be readily available in high traffic areas, color-coded and easily readable.

Some of the most important elements that it must contain are:

  • A pictorial representation of the floor or area
  • The Title “Evacuation Diagram”
  • “YOU ARE HERE” location(s)
  • Exit points
  • Assembly area(s)
  • Communications equipment
  • Fire extinguishers, Hose reels, Hydrants and Fire blankets
  • Validity date

How the Emergency Plan Interacts With Other Management Systems?

When observed as a whole, an emergency plan is just one part in an overall Safety Management Plan, intertwining with elements in order to identify potential hazards, as well as provide training, education and consultation programs.

Conclusion

The awareness of an existing threat is the first step in being ready to deal with it. Although it would be illogical to claim that any space could be 100% hazard-free, there are many ways in which these risks could be minimized. Furthermore, this could be achieved only by implementing a compelling emergency evacuation plan and providing training at constant intervals.

Resources:

http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/SWA/about/Publications/Documents/667/Emergency%20Plans.pdf

http://www.facilitiesnet.com/emergencypreparedness/article/An-Emergency-Planning-Guide-for-Facilities-Facilities-Management-Emergency-Preparedness-Feature–10690

http://www.shrm.org/hrdisciplines/safetysecurity/articles/pages/training-critical-preventing-workplace-fires.aspx

https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/evacuation/floorplan_demo.html

https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/evacuation/eap.html

http://www.fireserviceprofessionals.com.au/images/stories/PDFs/qld-building-fire-safety-regulation-2008/3745-2010.pdf

https://www.fire.qld.gov.au/planning/