Developing an emergency evacuation plan is vitally important because not having one in place can lead to confusion, injury, and damage to the property. When creating your plan, consider the types of emergencies that would lead to an evacuation, create a map based on the floor plan, designate wardens to help people evacuate, determine under which conditions specific individuals would need to stay behind, and create a system by which to take a head count. If you do these five steps, you will have an emergency evacuation plan that will work in times of need.
How to Develop an Emergency Evacuation Plan
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, there are a variety of conditions under which an evacuation may be necessary, including “fires, explosions, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, toxic material releases and radiological and biological accidents, civil disturbances, and workplace violence” (Evacuation Plans and Procedures).
You should have different emergency evacuation plans based on the conditions under which the emergency occurs. For example, you may want your employees to assemble in one area of the building during a tornado but evacuate to an exterior location if a fire occurs. Brainstorm the worst-case scenarios and plan accordingly.
2. Create a Map Based on Floor Plans
Most employers create maps for the building based on floor plans which designate exit routes, as well as the locations of first aid kits and fire extinguishers. These maps should be placed in prominent locations on every floor of the building.
If possible, provide a map to every employee that they can hang in their cubicles or place in their desks. Then, provide them with opportunities to test their knowledge of the emergency evacuation plan by doing drills as often as necessary to keep your employees prepared.
3. Designate Wardens to Help People Evacuate
It is not enough to provide maps and drill your employees on the emergency evacuation plan. You should designate individuals, call wardens, to assist people in an evacuation. It is also the responsibility of the wardens to check all rooms, including closets and bathrooms, to ensure everyone is out.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends one warden for every sixty employees. In addition to designating who the wardens are, you will need to provide these individuals with training on implementation of the emergency evacuation plan and first-aid. The first aid training should include, says Be Prepared California, respiratory protection, protection against blood-borne pathogens, and how to prevent unauthorized access to the building. Training should be maintained at least annually to ensure that it is not forgotten.
4. Determine When Individuals Would Need to Stay Behind
Sometimes equipment and processes need to be shut down over a period of time or may not be practically shut down under certain emergency conditions. This usually occurs with large manufacturing companies who have complicated processes, can also occur in small companies, though it is not common. Nonetheless, some individuals may need to stay behind to man fire extinguishers and shut down gas and electrical systems, as well as any equipment that could be damaged or create additional hazards if left running during the emergency.
Immediate evacuation of all employees and visitors is the preferred plan for small companies, but if any individuals have to remain behind, the emergency evacuation plan should describe in detail what procedures these employees should take and when. Anyone who stays behind should be able to recognize when it is no longer possible to remain and evacuate before their exit is blocked.
5. Create a System for Head Counts
To quickly and easily determine how many and who is out of the building, you should first decide on a point on-site to which employees should evacuate. This location should be far enough from the building that the employees, as well as any visitors or customers, or not in danger from the hazard causing the emergency.
You should also be sure the location can hold all of your employees and an estimated number of visitors (based on the average number of visitors at any given time). Next, do an actual head count of employees. Have a list of names to call out and check off and/or take head counts by department to make it easier to figure out who is missing. If anyone is missing, ask the people who know him or her and find out their last-known location. This will be very helpful to rescue workers looking for people trapped in the building.
You should also decide on a method by which to count the visitors and/or customers. You could, for example, ask each employee if they had a visitor or customer and determine if that person is accounted for. Another method would be to have a sign-in book where visitors put their name and the time they enter and exit the building.
When you do a head count, also read off the names on the sign-in book that do not have an exit time. Finally, after all head counts are done, inform the rescue workers of the missing persons and where they were last seen so they can locate those individuals.
Taking these steps will ensure that everyone is accounted for or, if not present, is known to be missing by the rescue workers. Once the head count is done, if the emergency requires it, you can send your employees home through the usual route (car, bus, etcetera) or provide transportation to another evacuation site further from the building.
Benefits of an Emergency Evacuation Plan
Taking the steps above will provide your company with an organized emergency evacuation plan that is not too complicated for employees to be able to follow. You can be certain that all individuals get out of the building with the help of the wardens or are located by rescue workers thanks to an organized head count.
With an emergency evacuation plan in place, you can save lives, prevent injury, and minimize property damage. In addition, you and your employees can rest easier knowing that there is a plan in place, allowing everyone to work more effectively.
Planning for an emergency can be an easy process if you follow the steps above. First, you will want to consider the circumstances which would require an evacuation. Second, create maps showing the exit routes and locations of first aid kits and fire extinguishers. You can make these maps based on your floor plans.
Third, you should designate wardens, individuals who will help everyone evacuate calmly and orderly. Fourth, decide which individuals will stay behind for equipment or process that cannot be shut down or which need to be shut down over time.
Finally, establish a method of getting a head count by designating an area for assembly and getting the names and last-known locations of anyone not present for the rescue workers. If you take these steps, your emergency evacuation plan will go smoothly when you have a real emergency, preventing injury, death, and damage to the property.