Most workplaces with buildings or fixed structures are likely to require an emergency evacuation at some point in time, so workplace safety and health planning should take these events into account. The recommended approach is to identify potentially hazardous situations, assess risk to workers and implement control measures to reduce or eliminate the chance that harm may occur during an evacuation. Training in established procedures and clear escape routes are key steps towards minimizing the risk of injury or loss of life. Everyone at the workplace, not just the people who coordinate the emergency evacuations, should know what to do and have regular practice in how to do it. To be effective, the fire safety evacuation procedures and fire drills should be an integral part of the workplace’s emergency management and response system, which is designed to deal with emergencies of all kinds. These procedures begin with measures to prevent fires and other hazardous events, and are further developed to reduce the level of risk to lives, property and the environment. Unfortunately many people arrive at the workplace each day without considering the possibility that they may need to evacuate to save their lives. Most enter with the expectation that they can come and go in reasonable safety, and to a large extent this is justified. Nevertheless, incidents requiring rapid evacuation of buildings and fixed structures do occur. Experience has shown that an emergency evacuation can be a complex and potentially dangerous task, requiring knowledge, training and procedures that can be adapted to a variety of situations. The need for evacuation is not always due to a catastrophic event. Evacuations are usually a response that ensures the protection of the occupants at a workplace against possible or potential harm. To avoid confusion during an actual fire emergency, it is essential that everyone in the organization know the precise role that they are expected to play. A well-thought-out fire emergency plan must be prepared and distributed in advance. The fire safety plan must clearly and precisely define the responsibilities of all personnel, and specify the chain of command.
As fire and building codes become increasingly advanced, more attention is being given to equipping workplace buildings with voice communication systems similar to the customary public address systems installed in shopping malls, auditoriums, banquet facilities, and arenas. These communication systems are designed to alert workplace occupants of the desired action and to provide clear instructions for evacuation of the building. They offer live or pre-recorded messages, which can be delivered in normal voice or synthesized tones. Building owners and managers can rely solely on live messages if they have twenty-four hour staffing on-site, or they may consider pre-recorded messages which have been narrated in a studio environment. Coupled with the evacuation procedures typically contained in a building’s fire safety plan, the broadcasting of pre-recorded messages can enhance the handling of planned or common emergency incidents such as fire drills, a notice to stay in place and prepare to evacuate, or instructions to proceed with an evacuation. These enhanced fire protection and life safety systems will require integrated systems testing prior to implementation. In the future, fire codes will require voice communication systems which are programmable in several languages, and enabled to broadcast first in the predominantly spoken language of the locale, followed by a message in the second most common language.
This article was contributed by Firepoint Inc, serving the GTA since 1997, developing fire department approved fire safety plans for newly constructed and existing buildings. Although every effort is made to ensure the accuracy, currency and completeness of the information, the bulletin publishers and authors do not guarantee, warrant, represent or undertake that the information provided is correct, accurate or current and shall not be liable for any loss, claim, or demand arising directly or indirectly from any use or reliance upon the bulletin information. Bulletin reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited without the written consent of Firepoint Inc. Copyright 2021 – All Rights Reserved. See www.firepoint.ca or call 905-874-9400.