Your organization MUST be able to account for employees during an evacuation.
IF YOU THINK AN EMPLOYEE IS STILL IN THE BUILDING BUT IN ACTUALITY HE IS NOT, A FIREMAN MAY HAVE TO GO IN NEEDLESSLY TO LOOK FOR HIM – AND THE FIREMAN COULD POSSIBLY LOSE HIS/HER LIFE!
If your process to account for employees during an evacuation, as documented in your emergency response plan, needs to be improved begin working on it immediately. Upper management must actively support your effort. Remind them that they can be held responsible if a tragedy occurs and they did not put forth an effort to fix a broken process they were aware of.
You must have a bullet-proof process to account for employees during an evacuation. Partner with Safety and Security on building the process.
Tip – Make sure rally points / evacuation assembly areas are known to ALL employees and visitors. The first few evacuation drills I suggest safety and your team walks people to the rally point so they understand exactly where they should go.
Tip – Regularly check that the rally point signs are highly visible. Paint the pole and make sure growing shrubbery is not obstructing the signs.
Tip – Supervisors should be aware who is in the office and who is not.
Tip – A log book at the front desk can record visitors in the building. Someone must have the responsibility to bring it to the rally point.
Tip – I have found employees are wary when they must record the time the leave the building and return in the log book. You might want to consider them simply putting a check-mark in the log book rather than the actual time.
Tip – Employees MUST understand the criticality of reporting directly to a rally point / evacuation assembly area. They should not be jumping in their cars or chatting with friends.
Tip – Attendance MUST be taken at the rally point and provided to the Incident Commander.
Tip – Complications can arise when there are multiple rally points and an employee depending on his whereabouts when the evacuation occurs, may report to one of multiple rally points. Implement a good process to communicate between rally points, the Incident Commander and the fire department officials. Teams should use walkie-talkie radios plus all other communication methods available to them. I use a push to talk (PTT) app in conjunction with radios. I find the PTT app provides value. In fact, my family caught on to it quickly and we use it constantly. The bottom line is – do not have a single point of communications failure.
Tip – There should be a process for employees that hear about the crisis and are not on site to report they are safe.
Tip – If you are in a high-rise or shared building, coordinate rally points with the other tenants. You do not want to encounter mass confusion with a sea of people at the rally point. Every second wasted can be the difference between life and death.
Tip – Automated check-in solutions can be helpful but are not a 100% solution.