Staying calm in a crisis
30 May 2013
If you needed to evacuate your building in an emergency how confident are you that you would be able to get every single person out quickly and safely? Jon Ellis, managing director of Ferno, advises on how to put an effective emergency plan in place
Human behaviour in emergency situations differs and studies have shown that about two thirds of the time available to escape is taken up by a person's initial reaction.
Often there is a delay while people decide if the alarm is real and only act after seeing the reaction of others around them to the developing situation. It is therefore crucial that an effective emergency plan is put in place which considers the needs of those people who may need extra help to escape.
Following changes in legislation such as the Equality Act 2010 and the Fire Safety Regulatory Reform Order 2005, venues which are open to the public, no matter how big or small, are legally obliged to ensure that people with disabilities or mobility issues have equal access to facilities and can safely escape a property in the event of an incident.
Buildings which have to comply with the new legislation include offices and shops, factories and warehouses, residential care and educational premises, sporting venues, theatres, cinemas, healthcare and transport premises and places of assembly.
There also has to be a designated person whose responsibility it is to ensure everyone on their site is evacuated, whether they are employees, visitors, contractors or members of the public.
The key to making sure everyone is evacuated safely in an emergency situation is to be prepared and know exactly what needs to be done and who needs to do it.
It is essential that every member of staff knows how to act, where to direct people, and what equipment is available to get everyone off the premises safely.
Evacuation audits Evacuation audits, which consider all aspects of an emergency evacuation including the management of disabled people, treating the injured, the effects of smoke, lighting and crowd control, can be carried out by a competent employee or a specialist consultant from outside the business.
Any building, whether it is a major arena or office block, will benefit from an evacuation audit. Even property managers who think they have all the correct procedures in place may be surprised by what else they can do to aid a safe and speedy evacuation should an emergency situation arise. Every audit and assessment will vary slightly to accommodate the different types of venue. However, in general, the purpose is to understand and identify any potential hazards within the building which may prevent a safe and quick evacuation and how these can be overcome.
Putting someone in charge Legislation stipulates that there has to be a person in charge of ensuring that a building is evacuated fully in the event of an emergency. In a place of work, that person should be aware of the location of anyone working in the building that is disabled, has mobility issues and even who is pregnant. A plan should then be put in place for their route of evacuation and equipment should be readily available to assist in this; for example a stretcher or an evacuation chair located at the top of each staircase, which are capable of manoeuvring downstairs.
Those people who need assistance should be made aware of the arrangements as should those who would be expected to help them make their escape. This will save precious minutes in the moments after the alarm is raised. A different scenario presents itself where large numbers of the general public may gather in one place, for instance at a sporting event or theatre. Such places are not exempt from legislation and likewise there has to be an appointed person responsible for ensuring a swift evacuation.
Disabled areas should be easily accessible via level or ramp access, and within a fire safe zone where there are no combustible materials. Designated refuge zones should be identified and located around the venue so that people who need assistance and those who will help evacuate them in the event of an emergency can convene. These refuge zones also present an ideal place to store equipment like evacuation chairs and stretchers so that they are to hand in time of need.
When an emergency occurs, you need procedures and equipment in place which you can rely on. They can be implemented into any type of building and tailored to suit whatever sector you operate in.
Ultimately, they can help to prevent tragic loss of life should a dangerous incident ever occur.