This information is from my new book, The Ultimate Business Continuity Success Guide: How to Build Real-World Resilience and Unleash Exciting New Value Streams. I hope you enjoy the chapter and my book.
Evacuation Drill Tips for Business Continuity and Safety
Make sure you team with your Safety and HR management before publishing any of these. They may not be in line with your corporate policies and procedures. You hopefully already have your own awareness tips in place.
To the person that thinks he or she is too important…’No, you are not too important to participate in evacuation drills!‘
Everyone must participate in evacuation drills on a regular basis. To repeat – Everyone must participate in evacuation drills on a regular basis. Employees must be made aware they will be held accountable for participating.
In my experience, having done many evacuation drills and training, almost everyone follows instructions and participates as they should. I say ‘almost everyone’ as I sometimes encounter the one or two individuals that just think they are too important or too busy to participate in evacuation drills. They think, ‘why practice, nothing will ever happen ‘, until it does!
In my experience, it is rarely a clerical or janitorial person that does not want to participate. Often, it is an executive that has a hard time getting his/her head through the doorway. They are just above it all.
A peer of mine described a scenario where the fire alarms and sirens went off and a high-ranking executive just continued on with his phone conversation. He thought he was above the rules. Believe it or not, he yelled a bunch of f’in this and f’in that, then he ripped off his brown suede shoes and fired a couple of perfect strikes with plenty of velocity squarely hitting the fire alarm!
In a different setting, if there were a baseball scout nearby, it would be ‘sign him up’. Direct hits. I even had to wonder if he practiced this. Well, he knocked out a siren, smiled and just continued his conversation!
Unfortunately for him but fortunately for the company the Fire Marshall wrote him up. The Senior VP had a straight-forward talk with him immediately following the drill. Guess what? It never happened again with that person He cooperated from then on.
Tip – Everyone Must Participate! That means everyone! Including C level employees and guests!
Tip – Management participation is critical. Management sets a positive example by participating and they set a negative example when they do not think it is important enough to participate.
Tip – Know beforehand who may need assistance during an evacuation and have a buddy system in place. Develop contingencies where necessary.
Tip – Never waste time going back for belongings – even your laptop and keys – leave them behind.
Tip – Proceed to the nearest exit.
Tip – Don’t run, walk fast.
Tip – Use the staircase, never use the elevator.
Tip – Walk along the LEFT side of the staircase. Yes, the left side. Leave the right side for the fire department and rescue teams.
Tip – Don’t talk, text or email while you walk.
Tip – Give first preference to the physically challenged, expectant mothers and the elderly.
Tip – Proceed to the pre-determined rally points.
Tip – Do not re-enter the building until the all-clear signal is communicated
Tip – Evacuate in an orderly manner.
Tip – In high rise buildings special evacuation rules apply. Learn the rules in your building.
Tip – If you are in a high rise building you must make full evacuations part of your testing. You should not just meet at the elevator for a brief discussion and go back to work. Prior to 9/11 there were no full building evacuation drills in the World Trade Center. 90% of the people never tested evacuating the buildings to the street. Many people did not know how many exits there were. Tragically, some people went up the stairs to the locked roof instead of evacuating down the stairs. Read ‘The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes’ by Amanda Ripley for a riveting account.
Tip – Don’t panic.
Tip – Do not purposely schedule evacuation drills when top management is offsite so they will not hassle you about participating. If anything, they should be onsite and reported if they do not participate in all drills.
Also, do some of your drills when the building is full. Maybe a sales meeting is occurring or a regional operations meeting. I know it is scary and you will ruffle some feathers but it is far worse if a fire occurs when the building is full and there is mass confusion, as people are not conditioned to respond immediately to the alarms and to go directly to the rally points. Every second counts!
Tip – Proper testing and awareness could be the difference between life and death!
Tip – Make sure your rally points are a safe distance from your building. Explosions and building collapse must be considered. Public officials must have access and cannot be blocked.
Tip – Clearly identify your rally points. Paint them a bright color, have large signs. Make them very visible.
Tip – Employees must not jump in their car or ‘coffee-klotch’ with their buddies. Not reporting to the rally point(s) can cost lives!
Tip – No Smoking!
Tip – If your company is in a building with other tenants, coordinate with them regularly to insure there are not multiple companies vying for the same rally point locations. This can cause mass confusion at time of evacuation. It can impede accounting for employees and endanger lives.
Tip – if your parking lot is backed by a railroad, plane runway or other threats make sure you have multiple rally points and people know what to do. In fact, you should always have alternate rally points, just in case.
Tip – Team with Safety and Security to consider all possibilities.
Bottom line – Everyone must be made accountable for their actions – even executives and would be pitchers. Everyone must participate and take drills seriously. It very well could be the difference between life and death.
Make sure your employees are well prepared!