Bulletin 176 October 2013 Managing an Unexpected Evacuation
- Posted at: September 25, 2021 03:40:20

The need for an evacuation is not necessarily due to a catastrophic event, but is usually a response that ensures the protection of the occupants at a workplace against a possible or potential harm. Walking into a place of work, it rarely occurs to occupants that it may be necessary to evacuate the building to save 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 can be complex and potentially dangerous, requiring knowledge, training and procedures that can be readily adapted to a variety of situations. To avoid confusion during an actual fire emergency, it is essential that all personnel in the organization know the precise role that they are expected to play. A well-thought-out fire emergency plan must be prepared and circulated for this purpose. The fire safety plan must clearly and precisely lay out the essential responsibilities of all personnel concerned and specify the chain of command. To implement a fire safety plan, one must consider all of the interrelated factors that may impede a suitable or sufficient emergency response to a building fire. This is part of the pre-planning for fire prevention and other activities that need to occur well before the fire emergency actually starts, or during the first few minutes afterwards. Workplace evacuation procedures do not exist in isolation, but are part of a management and response system set up to deal with emergencies of all kinds. They begin with measures to prevent fires and other emergencies, and develop into a full-fledged safety plan that aims to reduce the level of risk to lives, property and the environment. This plan aims to control incidents that could lead to an emergency, reduce negative impacts on the workplace and provide the basis for the training of those who could be involved in an emergency at the workplace.

Providing frequent training will help to ensure that everyone in the building facility understands the fire safety plan and evacuation procedures. One 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 set procedures and establishing clear escape routes are key steps towards minimizing the risk of injury or loss of life. Everyone at the workplace, not just the personnel who coordinate the emergency evacuations, must know what to do and have regular practice in how to do it. Unfortunately, visitors are usually not familiar with a building facility and often unaware of the emergency procedures to follow in the event of a fire. In addition, regular staff or fire wardens may not be on the lookout for visitors as part of the search process during an evacuation. It is important for property managers and building operators to clearly identify risk factors for both occupants and visitors before an emergency occurs. All individuals must be made familiar with the hazards in the building environment and aware of implemented safeguards. To be effective, implementing the fire safety plan and conducting fire drills must be an integral part of the workplace’s emergency management program. It is important to review the fire safety plan at intervals of no greater than 12 months. Building management is required to ensure that the fire safety plan continues to accurately reflect the current building layout, fire protection and life safety systems, staffing levels and assignments, emergency contact information, and uses of the building. Where there have been considerable changes, a re-submission to the municipality may be required.

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.

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