Emergency Evacuation procedure in the Workplace.

Ken Walker

ambulances cue at hospital in emergency

This information covering emergency evacuation has been covered in other articles by STG Fire Safety Training. Even so, because of its importance we are going to look at the practical aspects of setting up and implementing an emergency evacuation procedure.

We all have to be prepared 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.

This plan must be developed by the emergency planning committee with assistance and input from everyone that will be relying on 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 normal occupants. It is essential that induction and ongoing training for occupants occurs 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 location of assembly areas and any muster point. Which are required for partial evacuation or as a transition to the main assembly area for large buildings. There must be regular emergency scenarios conducted so procedures can be tested and everyone from the fire wardens to general occupants. Making sure they understand what is expected of them during an emergency.

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First on scene must assess the situation

In an emergency, the designated emergency person who is first on scene must assess the situation. Then alert others to sound alarms and draw attention of others to start the process of evacuations. The emergency services must be contacted via “000” (in Australia) at the early possible time. This may be done by a designated person, a worker who noticed the emergency but it is important the chief warden confirms the emergency services have been contacted (if required).

Call the fire department if the emergency is a fire or rescue service is required. The ambulance would be called id resuscitation or another medical emergency has occured. In larger cities throughout Australia when calling to report a medical emergency, the first service on scene may be the fire brigade. They generally have advanced first aid skills, but an ambulance will also be responded. In rural locations a fire truck is unlikely to be responded.

Where there is a threat of violence or the potential or real threat of an armed offender the police would be called to deal with the situation. In this situation an emergency evacuation may be dangerous and fire wardens may decide the safest option is to ‘stay in place’.

Other essential services that may be required include power and gas companies or other services to bring the location back to normal operations. Where government departments will be providing assistance, the calls will probably be made by senior personnel within the organisation.

Factor which will reduce response times

Don’t forget that where there are injuries or reports sent to the media. Workers’ families are notified at the earliest possible time. This can stop unwanted people attending the location and potentially putting others at further risk. The media need to be controlled and if they are ignored they 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 it is essential that a situation is identified and your request the appropriate assistance. Good leadership will enhance the response capabilities of fire wardens and the emergency services.

One factor which will reduce response times is to have an employee or designated person to 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 is the key to any emergency response.

Where it is safe to do so extinguish fire if applicable, shut off main gas supply if necessary, shut off 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 certain that everyone has evacuated.

evacuating crowd

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 park break. Depending on the work site the emergency evacuation procedure may require you to leave the keys in the car. Make sure this is done just in case emergency service needs to move your vehicle.

Emergency assembly areas are generally pre determined and marked appropriately. Some worksites may have a windsock which is a good indicator of wind direction. Direction of the wind could become important when trying to determine which assembly area to use during a gas leak. Otherwise you can check direction with assistance from equipment like flags or even smoke from a chimney.

Raising the alarm of a escalating emergency

If working in a large building or large industrial environment ensure you are aware where the main exits are located. Remember lifts are not to be used 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 provide assistance.

When you hear an alarm , unless the emergency is within close proximity to you, you don’t know how large or small it might be. So take all alarms seriously and don’t smoke or create other hazards when in the assembly area.

A head count will be taken in the designated assembly area so it is essential that you follow your organisations 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 it is important that the chief fire warden or other fire warden 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 make sure that you ask your supervisor.

In conclusion

We all have responsibility for taking action and remaining safe within a work environment. The business owner has extra responsibilities which must be complied with. The emergency evacuation procedure is provided to give us guidance. Being on how we can remain safe for a given work location. By following these procedures your friends and other work colleagues will remain safe as will you.

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