As we may have read in the papers or seen on the news, an emergency evacuation can be a complex and potentially dangerous task, requiring knowledge, training and procedures that must be adapted to a variety of situations. 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 other fixed structures do occur. The need for evacuation is not necessarily due to a catastrophic event. Evacuations are usually a response designed to ensure the protection of 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 be familiar with the procedures and 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. The reality is that emergencies do occur in workplace buildings; therefore it is critical that safety and health planning activities should take these events into account. One approach operators may consider is to start by identifying potentially hazardous situations, assessing risk to workers, and implementing 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 then further developed with strategies to reduce the level of risk to lives, property and the environment.
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 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 described 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. Advances in technologies have allowed for the development of voice communication systems which are programmable in several languages and able to broadcast first in the predominantly spoken language of the locale, followed by a message in the second most common language. All in all, integrating these new alert systems with the approved fire safety plan evacuation procedures is a major step towards reducing risks for building occupants.
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.