The Need for Emergency Evacuation Planning in an Era of Increased Security Risk
Buffalo. Uvalde. Tulsa. Philadelphia. These tragedies mark the return of public (or mass) shootings in the U.S., suggesting that venues and businesses without actionable plans won’t be safe. What can be done? Developing an emergency evacuation plan for your business is one of many logical first steps. And here’s how to do it.
What are emergency evacuations all about?
To many, the rapid removal of people from immediate or threatened danger, otherwise known as an emergency evacuation, seems like a remote contingency. To others, it seems like a relatively straightforward procedure, requiring little to no planning or practice.
The fact is neither group is right.
Whether natural or manmade, emergency situations happen all the time, precipitating evacuations. Unsurprisingly, the record shows that the more disorganized the evacuation is the more likely it is to cause unnecessary confusion, property damage, injury, even fatality.
What’s more, regulatory bodies, like the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), set out minimum requirements for emergency preparation – often stipulating that businesses need some degree of emergency evacuation planning.
As a result, organizations who fail to plan find themselves out of compliance with local, state, and/or national safety statutes.
Not all emergency evacuation plans are created equal
But that doesn’t mean that any ole emergency evacuation plan will do. Indeed, organizations must first consider the purpose and scope of the emergency evacuation plan, outlining what they are trying to accomplish with the plan and what material will be covered in it.
Nor should the resultant emergency evacuation plan be treated as a standalone. Rather, it should serve as an important supplement (or annex) to other incident management plans, activated when the incident in question necessitates an emergency evacuation.
What kind of incidents usually trigger an emergency evacuation? Besides active shooter incidents, here’re a few other examples:
- Toxic material releases
- Radiological and biological accidents
- Civil disturbances
- Workplace violence
Set roles and responsibilities in the emergency evacuation plan
Again, the incident plan that triggered the emergency evacuation will have already named the parties responsible for the response, i.e., the Emergency Evacuation and Strike teams.
The evacuation plan, on the other hand, clarifies the responsibilities of a few additional Security roles, namely Chief Warden and Warden. The Warden, for example, is tasked with the following (and more):
- Assisting people with the evacuation procedures
- Moving people to the designated assembly points when instructed by signals, warnings, written notifications, or intercom orders
- Taking attendance of people once relocated to a safe area to a designated assembly point or evacuated to another location
Response and action in the emergency evacuation plan
The final step to take is preparing response and action plans, outlining specific emergency notification and evacuation procedures to take. An orderly evacuation, for instance, looks like the following:
- Evacuate even if others refuse to follow
- Exit, leaving the building through any unobstructed exit door or wherever else it is safe to do so
- Leave all your belongings behind
- Proceed briskly and calmly to the designated assembly point. Do not run.
- Assist other people if it is possible and safe to do so
- Clearly identify yourself to the Warden when requested to do so
- Notify the Warden of any injured or missing persons
- Follow all instructions given by the Warden or other designated people
Besides that, organizations will have to consider who else on the Security team should be empowered to initiate the emergency evacuation plan and what tools and security management technologies that person will need to ensure the evacuation goes smoothly.
Not sure what capabilities matter? Download our purchaser’s guide to security management software to keep your people and property safe.