Some of this information relating to evacuation procedures is in other articles authored by STG Fire Safety Training. Because of its importance, we look at the practical aspects of setting up and implementing an emergency evacuation procedure.
We should all prepare for the possibility of an emergency incident on a work site. It is the legislated responsibility of an owner-operator of a business or undertaking. To have an emergency response plan in place that complies with the appropriate health and safety legislation.
The emergency planning committee is responsible for developing emergency plans, with assistance from everyone relying on or implementing the plan during an emergency. The evacuation plan must be kept and reviewed periodically, as required in Australian Standard 3745-2010.
What should the emergency evacuation procedure and plan include?
The plan must include the identification of potential emergencies and how to deal with them. Provide emergency response facility locations and the training requirement of the Emergency Control Organisation (Chief and fire wardens) even though the fire wardens will receive more training than regular occupants. It is essential that induction and ongoing training for occupants occur regularly.
Other key factors include but aren’t limited to fire protection requirements, alarm and first aid requirements, the emergency evacuation procedures and necessary PPE and designated workers trained and able to conduct rescue operations if safe to do so.
The emergency plan should also include assembly areas and any muster points—provisions for partial evacuation or as a transition to the main assembly area for large buildings.
Facilities should conduct regular training using appropriate scenarios to test everyone from the fire wardens to general occupants. Making sure they understand what their role is during an emergency.
First, on the scene must assess the situation.
In an emergency, the designated emergency person who is first on the scene must assess the situation. Then alert others to sound alarms and draw the attention of others to start the process of evacuations. One should contact the emergency services at the earliest possible time. A designated person may perform this task or the worker who noticed the emergency.
Call the fire department if the emergency requires their response—the ambulance response for resuscitation or where another medical emergency has occurred. In larger cities throughout Australia, when calling to report a medical emergency, the first service on the scene may be the fire brigade. They generally have advanced first aid skills. Even so, the emergency control centre will still send an ambulance. In rural locations, a fire truck is unlikely provided. Where there is a threat of violence or the potential or actual threat of an armed offender, police deal with the situation. In this case, an emergency evacuation may be dangerous, and fire wardens may decide the safest option is to ‘stay in place’.
Other essential services include power and gas companies that respond to assist in returning to normal.
The factor which will reduce response times
Don’t forget that where there are injuries or reports sent to the media. Notify Workers’ families at the earliest possible time. Stopping unwanted people from attending the location and potentially putting others at additional risk. Control over the Media is essential; when ignored, media generally will find a way to get information and make it difficult for responders. You will notice on the evening news that where emergencies occur, the emergency services will generally allocate a qualified person to talk with the media. When contacting any outside organisation, a situation must be identified and your request the appropriate assistance. Good leadership will enhance the response capabilities of fire wardens and the emergency services.
- One factor that will reduce response times is having an employee or designated person meet the emergency services at the main point of entry. In other words, the location where they are likely to enter the building. Emergency responders will appreciate direction to the scene and be able to prepare for the given situation. Information and communications are the keys to any emergency response.
- It is safe to extinguish the fire if applicable, shut off the main gas supply if necessary, and shut off the main electrical breaker if necessary. Then close all fire doors if possible and evacuate buildings on-site if deemed appropriate. Designated fire wardens are to make sure that everyone has evacuated.
Action all workers can take.
In the event of a site emergency, when you hear an alarm or siren shut down all work activities and equipment if safe to do so. Then proceed to the appropriate assembly area or muster point on foot. Do not drive to the assembly area.
In the event of a flammable liquid or combustible vapour, leak vehicles may become a source of ignition. If the evacuation occurs when you are driving – safely pull over, turn off the vehicle’s engine and apply the parking brake. Depending on the worksite, the emergency evacuation procedure may require you to leave the keys in the car. Make sure keys are available, just in case emergency service needs to move your vehicle.
Emergency assembly areas are generally predetermined and marked appropriately. Some worksites may have a windsock which is a good indicator of wind direction. The wind direction could become important when trying to determine which assembly area to use during a gas leak. Otherwise, you can check the path with assistance from equipment like flags or even smoke from a chimney.
They were raising the alarm of an escalating emergency.
- If working in a large building or large industrial environment, ensure you know where to locate the main exits. Remember, lifts aren’t available during an emergency and are very unreliable. Even firefighters try to limit the use of lifts during emergencies. People with disabilities who require evacuation from a multi-level building can obtain immediate protection from fire isolated stairways. These will keep them safe until the emergency services can assist.
- When you hear an alarm, unless the emergency is within proximity to you, you don’t know how large or small it might be. So take all warnings seriously and don’t smoke or create other hazards when in the assembly area.
- Perform a headcount in the designated assembly area, so you must follow your organisation’s log-in procedures. Also, remember to sign out. Emergency responders may be placing their lives at risk in a needless search for your whereabouts.
- Before you can return to work, the chief fire warden or another fire warden must receive the ok to reenter by emergency services. It is your job to stay informed. If you don’t know where the first aid kit/office or assembly area is, please ask your supervisor.
Establishing how we can remain safe for a given work location is essential. We all have responsibility for taking action and staying safe within a work environment. Every business owner has extra responsibilities which require compliance. The emergency evacuation procedure provides a guide to occupants. By following these procedures, your friends and other work colleagues will remain safe, as will you.