Evacuating employees from your facility in a safe and orderly fashion during a fire or other emergency requires coordination, planning, and practice. This article provides some best practices for planning and executing your company’s evacuation plan.
To effectively execute an evacuation, use the following pre-planning guidelines:
- If you have a large operation, multiple buildings or floors, or any other configuration that inhibits quick and effective verification of employee evacuation or emergency response, designate safety wardens for different areas or floors. These wardens will be responsible for knowing proper emergency and evacuation protocols. Communicate the name of each warden to everyone in their assigned area and post the names and contact information strategically throughout the building(s). It is also good to assign back-up or secondary wardens.
- Review evacuation routes and assembly points with all employees and display maps throughout the building(s).
- Devise a process to account for employees once they arrive at the assembly point. Consider delegating the first person to arrive as the point of contact to expedite the process. A safety vest or other similar means should be used to help identify the contact at each assembly point.
- Use attendance check sheets, an electronic log verification (e.g., telephone or computer “in/out” settings), or an app like Headcount ™ to verify employees are evacuated safely
- Confirm that emergency equipment (e.g., alarm system, lighted exit signs, and emergency lighting) are functioning properly and have adequate back-up battery or generator power. Be sure the systems are checked by a professional at least annually.
Now that you’ve done the front-end work, the following guidelines can help you safely execute the plan.
- Communicate emergency drill expectations to all employees. Consider scheduling a drill and only announcing the specific details (day/time) to those who are helping conduct the drill.
- Contact local emergency responders and the alarm system company before the practice drill and coordinate appropriately.
- Direct employees to stay in the assembly area and remain quiet so additional instruction can be communicated.
- Ensure an “all clear” signal is given by the safety warden(s) before employees return to work inside the building.
- Take notes on what worked well and what didn’t. Use the safety team or similar group to review lessons learned and develop appropriate corrective actions.
Emergency evacuations can be hectic but proper preparation and practice will help prepare employees to respond quickly, calmly, and safely.