When faced with an emergency situation, knowing what to do and where to go can mean the difference between a calm, safe and organised evacuation, and complete chaos that could result in injury or death. Good evacuation procedures, evacuation training and regular evacuation drills can make a huge difference.
Creating a good emergency plan that includes a clear and effective evacuation procedure can be a daunting task for those unfamiliar with legal requirements and best practice. There are many factors that must be considered and the requirements for evacuation procedures necessarily increase in complexity as sites and facilities grow in size and number of occupants.
What is an emergency plan and why is it needed?
An emergency plan sets out the ways in which a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) will respond to an emergency situation. The emergency plan may stand alone or be part of a broader emergency management and/or business continuity plan.
Under the NSW Work Health and Safety Regulation (2017), employers are legally required to prepare, maintain, and implement an emergency plan that enables an effective response to any emergency. Aside from the legal requirement to have an emergency plan, it simply makes good business sense to plan ahead, just in case the worst happens.
An effective emergency plan helps to minimise the impact an incident has on a business and its operations, ensuring any interruption, financial loss, threat or damage to property, and threat to the lives and safety of occupants or employees, is minimised, so that the enterprise can resume normal operations as soon as possible.
What is an evacuation procedure?
An evacuation procedure is an integral part of an emergency plan, which specifies the process that must be followed and the actions that must be taken in the event that an evacuation is required. The evacuation procedure is a logical and comprehensive plan for ensuring an evacuation is conducted as safely and efficiently as possible, to minimise the potential for injuries or fatalities.
Why do you need an evacuation procedure?
It is common for people to panic when disaster strikes, and people who are panicked often do not think clearly or act rationally. Planning ahead for potential emergencies enables a business to respond more effectively and efficiently, assisting the PCBU to ensure their employees and any visitors to their site or facility are able to safely escape from the building or site.
How do you develop an evacuation procedure?
In planning ahead and developing an evacuation procedure, it is necessary for a PCBU to:
- undertake a comprehensive risk evaluation,
- identify the safest escape routes and best assembly points,
- instal adequate signage to exits,
- ensure adequate fire safety/emergency equipment is available,
- compile a list of emergency contact numbers, and
- establish an emergency management team – define and document the requirements of each role, select an emergency response coordinator (e.g., head warden), and appoint people to supporting roles (e.g., fire wardens, area wardens, and first aid officers).
When developing an emergency management plan or evacuation procedure it can be beneficial to seek assistance from an evacuation consultant, who specialises in all aspects of emergency and evacuation management, including procedure development and evacuation training.
What needs to be included in an evacuation procedure?
Evacuation procedures must cover the:
- warning system to be used,
- process for activating alarms and alerting people at the site,
- requirements for notifying emergency services as soon as possible,
- location of emergency exits, assembly point/s and the escape route/s to be used,
- location of equipment for fire protection, safety/rescue and first aid,
- guidelines/requirements for the provision of medical treatment and assistance,
- management of visitors to the site,
- reporting/roll call process to ensure all occupants and visitors are evacuated and accounted for,
- requirements for communication between the emergency response coordinator, the emergency management team and everyone at the site or facility, and
- requirements for the dissemination and prominent display of emergency signage, including a site plan showing the location of equipment, emergency exits and assembly points.
The Managing the Work Environment and Facilities – Code of Practice recommends that the evacuation procedure be prominently displayed in the workplace and easily accessible in an emergency.
To ensure the effectiveness of the evacuation procedure and process it is essential to have a clear chain of command, and this is why it is important to have a well-trained emergency management team. It is crucial that those people selected to coordinate the emergency response are able to remain calm under pressure, and are competent, confident, and comfortable taking charge.
The emergency plan must also set out the processes that will be used for testing the evacuation procedure, such as evacuation drills, and specify how and when information, training, and instruction on evacuation procedures will be provided to occupants of the site or facility.
Effective training in evacuation procedures, combined with regular evacuation drills (at least every 12 months):
- enables the emergency management team to take swift and decisive action, keep themselves and others calm and safe, and minimise interruptions to business operations, and
- ensures employees know what to do in an emergency, helping them to remain calm and in control, stay safe and prevent injuries.
Adair Evacuation Consultants can help your business develop an evacuation procedure to suit your unique needs
Adair Evacuation Consultants offers professional, reasonably priced evacuation planning and training services, from Sydney to the Upper Hunter, and everywhere in between. From consultancy services to specialised evacuation equipment, printed materials and signage, we have all of your evacuation planning needs covered.
Our experienced evacuation consultants and accredited trainers can work with you to develop safe and efficient emergency management plans and evacuation procedures, to protect your employees, visitors, and assets. We can also provide your business with staff and warden evacuation training that is compliant with current Australian Standards and tailored to your workplace needs, to ensure your employees are well-prepared for any emergency.