Hello! In this post we are going to present some information that needs to be considered when putting together an evacuation procedure. We hope you like it!
Australian Standard ‘AS 3745 – Planning for Emergencies in Facilities’ defines evacuation as the orderly movement of people from a place of danger. According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, evacuate means to move people from a dangerous place to somewhere safe.
We prefer the second definition because it includes the requirement that the destination must be safe. Also it doesn’t mention the word ‘orderly’ which in case of a real emergency can be impossible to achieve. We’re animals after all, and we panic.
The safety aspect has been added to the definition from its original word in Latin (evacuo, meaning ‘make empty’.) A lot of other languages use very similar words with the same meaning as English (Spanish, Portuguese, French, German…). Thank you Romans!
When you manage a workplace, one of your duties is to make sure everybody can be safely evacuated in case of emergency. And to do this, people generally conduct emergency drills and time the exercise to assess the adequacy of the systems (the classic PDCA cycle).
Types of site occupants
The evacuation procedure needs to clearly describe what to expect from:
- Emergency controllers (officers, wardens and deputies). These roles must be clearly allocated (who’s what) and their specific function described in the evacuation procedure. It is a good idea to use swim lanes (aka functional bands) in the evacuation flowcharts for added clarity.
- Regular occupants, who should be familiar with the evacuation process (remember the drills?)
- Visitors, who need to collaborate and be directed to safety.
It is worth highlighting here that wardens need to check their areas to make sure all persons have been evacuated and report status to the chief warden / officer (incl. occupation of refuge if applicable).
THIS STEP IS MORE IMPORTANT THAT DOING A HEADCOUNT LATER!
Disabled and non-English-speaking people also need to be considered. What needs to be done to ensure their safety? E.g. graphic information, shelters, escorts, ramps…
Different types of emergencies will require different types of evacuations. Typically, you have to define:
- Who needs to evacuate: Everybody or just the personnel close to the hazard? Do you need to notify the neighbouring business for them to evacuate?
- Where to evacuate: To the regular assembly area or to an intermediate safe spot?
- How to evacuate: What route should be used? Can occupants walk upright? Must they? Shallow breathing?
Some people include shelter in place, lock-down or invacuation (funny word) as different types of evacuation processes, but we’re going to leave these for another post because strictly speaking we don’t think they are evacuations (remember the definitions at the beginning of the post?).
Unsure about when to call for an evacuation? The emergency plan should describe this. I recommend you read this UK article on how to develop a company emergency plan.
Remember that each type of emergency needs to have its associated response procedure. It will ultimately depend on the nature of the event whether you evacuate or not, and if you do so, what type of evacuation do you trigger. Because there will always be unexpected factors in an emergency, it may be a good idea to use our evacuation app to make things easier. Do you want to know more? Just see its features here.
Thank you for reading!