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How to Make an Effective Office Evacuation Plan

How to Make an Effective Office Evacuation Plan

No one ever wants an incident, but it’s prudent to plan for them all the same. Investing in quality security is a crucial step, but it’s also vital your business have an emergency evacuation plan in place to handle such an eventuality. A reliable emergency plan is one of your best defences against disasters. It might be impossible to predict every single emergency your business may face, but a comprehensive and flexible evacuation plan is one of your most effective means of minimizing damage and saving lives.

It may take some time and effort to craft an emergency action plan, but it’s well worth it. Not only is it a way to save lives, but it’s also a way to safeguard the company’s future. After disaster strikes, your ability to resume regular operations is key to getting back on your feet and returning to normal. Here’s a list of steps to help you craft a plan that helps you look after your office and everyone in it. 

Map a safe route to the nearest emergency exit

  1. Take care of basic evacuation planning
    For smaller businesses, all you might need to do in case of emergency is head out the back door. However, if you’re based in a larger office building, it’s more prudent to have a more detailed plan. Plan out a safe route to emergency exits, taking into account the physical capabilities of all your employees, to ensure everyone can navigate. Take note of potential hazards like flammable materials to avoid passing near them while heading towards emergency exits. Remember to plot secondary routes as well to have redundant ways out in case your main route becomes impassable.

    The next step is to designate a muster point where personnel can assemble after clearing the building. This makes it easier to conduct roll calls after an evacuation to determine who’s safe, who’s missing, and who needs first aid. Choose an assembly area that can safely accommodate the expected number of people who are evacuating.

  2. Establish clear roles and responsibilities
    Another critical item to place on your emergency evacuation checklist is the proper delegation of responsibility. When an emergency strikes, employees look to their leaders to offer guidance and reassurance at that critical time. Defining a clear chain of command makes it easier to organize your efforts when a crisis rears its ugly head. It’s also a great way to empower your staff so your evacuation plans operate smoothly when stress levels run high.

    Some important roles to keep in mind include:

    • evacuation coordinator (who ensures all the proper steps are taken)
    • head checker (who does a headcount so everyone’s accounted for)
    • first-aid practitioner (someone certified in first-aid to tend to injuries until help arrives)
    • alert manager (to contact emergency services)

    Remember to assign backups in case anything should happen to your primary personnel, and make sure the emergency team is spread out across all departments and locations.

    Get in touch with emergency services to optimize your plan

  3. Coordinate with emergency services
    Emergency services are an invaluable ally. It’s also a good idea to include them in the planning process to get their insights into creating your action plan. As professionals, emergency services representatives have the expertise to find elements you’ve overlooked and provide additional steps to guarantee staff safety.

    You can also coordinate with neighbouring businesses if you’re based in a multi-tenant building or business park. An emergency would affect all of you, so sharing emergency response duties can make the task of evacuating all the easier. Coordinating your approaches also makes it easier to avoid interfering with each other’s emergency plans, ensuring greater safety at the critical moment.

    Inspect your supplies to ensure you have enough

  4. Gather your necessary resources
    One vital step to preparing for an emergency is having all the tools you need. This includes fire extinguishers and first-aid kits. Perform regular inspections of your equipment to make sure they’re viable when you need them. As a rule of thumb, conduct those inspections every 6 months to ensure supplies are on hand and up-to-date. While you’re at it, take a look at other emergency essentials like fire alarms and emergency lighting to confirm that they’re operable in a crisis.

    Depending on the emergency, employees may also need protective equipment like hard hats and safety goggles to help them evacuate safely. Perform an inventory of your emergency supplies to check if you have enough of them on hand. It may also be a good idea to train your employees to utilize office supplies in case of emergency scenarios. For example, office chairs and file cabinets may be used to break through windows or knock down doors in case of a fire.

    Consider staff with disabilities when developing the plan

  5. Take all individuals into account
    A good example of a good emergency evacuation plan also takes into account the safety of other people besides employees. You are also responsible for other personnel in the office, like visitors and contractors, so take them into account when planning routes and muster points.

    Keep special assistance in mind as well to accommodate employees who may need it. Any staff with disabilities or in poor health may need additional help making it through safely, so include procedures to assist them during the evacuation process. For example, consider implementing the buddy system to ensure that all staff watch each other’s backs.

  6. Conduct emergency drills
    Practice makes perfect, and the same logic applies to evacuation. Regular rehearsals are a great way to let your staff master evacuation procedures in a controlled environment. Through repetition, personnel can familiarize themselves with emergency routes and evacuation leaders can get used to their special duties.

    Get your evacuation leaders together regularly to plan annual or semi-annual emergency drills and exercises to test the company’s readiness. Alternatively, you can also include mini-drills as part of the onboarding for new employees to help them acclimatize to the new office and start building relationships with the others.

    Keep review questions like “Were employees evacuated safely and without panic?” in mind to help gauge how prepared you were on short notice. The drills are also a chance to identify any issues with your approach and amend them while you have time. Pay close attention to your findings to keep the emergency plan updated as time goes on.

Get everyone up to speed

Keep in mind that even a small emergency can make your staff a little nervous. For the sake of ease and convenience, keep your evacuation procedures clear and concise, especially if other staff have to take over for emergency managers. The backup staff can do their roles more easily if you keep the emergency process simple.

Remember to also keep objectives simple to avoid overwhelming staff in the middle of an emergency. Focus on defining a few key objectives staff can accomplish with minimal essential details, like contacting emergency services, evacuating personnel to muster points, and shutting down key infrastructure.

When it comes to providing quality safety and security personnel for businesses, the Centre for Security Training & Management Inc. has you covered. Our graduates are trained in a wide range of skills to prepare them for the job, including defensive tactics and first-aid. Give us a call now at (416) 750-4747 to sharpen your skills and get ready for any emergency.