In the event of an emergency, the most important thing is to save lives. When an emergency strikes, employees won’t likely be calm. An effective evacuation plan
clearly defines what actions they should take when panicked and will save lives.
Every evacuation plan will be different and may need room for flexibility depending on the type of disaster that occurs, but here are some elements of all effective evacuation plans.
When to evacuate
Evacuations themselves can be dangerous. Establish under what circumstances an evacuation is necessary and include those criteria in your plan. Make sure you have a clear chain of command: know who can initiate an evacuation.
To start, your evacuation plan needs to include a way to alert employees that they need to evacuate
. The sooner you can start evacuation, the better, so communication is key.
Put a process in place for employees to alert the right people in the event they notice the need for an evacuation and get the process started. Alarms alerting employees to evacuate should be distinctive. Make sure alarms reach all areas of your business wherever employees may be working.
Consider how you will keep employees updated about the emergency and informed about when it is safe to return to the area after the evacuation.
No matter how prepared, panicked employees can make evacuation confusing. All routes should be posted and visible on walls and by exits. Post all routes and exits where they’ll be easily visible to employees during an evacuation. Include simple and direct instructions with evacuation route postings.
When it’s time for evacuation, employees will need to move quickly. Having important items prepared in a go-bag that can be easily grabbed before making a quick exit will save employee hesitation and allow them to act more quickly.
Know where you’re going
Getting out safely is important for saving lives. Accounting for everyone after the evacuation is also important for reducing confusion and making sure unnecessary rescue efforts aren’t made. A good evacuation plan needs to include a meeting destination or check-in point. Depending on the emergency, which way the wind is blowing, which way the storm is moving one spot may not work, so it’s good to pick two or three places in opposite directions from each other.
In some evacuation cases, to protect your building, it may be necessary to shut off gas, electricity, water etc. Know who will be responsible for dealing with these issues and how you will communicate the need.
Annual training on emergency evacuation procedures will help employees act with speed and confidence when the time comes. Having an evacuation plan is a first step, practicing it and working out any kinks is another very important step that will help save lives.
We hope you’ll never need to use your evacuation plan. But hoping for the best is not going to save lives in the case of an emergency. Prepare for the worst and, if necessary, your evacuation will go as smoothly as possible.