Over the past few decades, the E.C.O. has become its own little emergency service. In reality, this organisation within a business and facility fills a very important void. Right from the time, an emergency starts until the emergency services arrive on the scene and beyond. Often assisting the emergency services with specialist advice.
Filling this void can be the difference between life and death. Depending on how long the emergency services take to respond the E.C.O. could be operating as the main combating organisation for many minutes and at times up to thirty minutes. The role of the E.C.O. should never be downplayed. They are trained (in most circumstances) first responders and emergency services could be called the second responders.
The role of the emergency services should also never be downed played. They have awesome tools, training and equipment. Responding to emergency calls every day of the year, their experience and skills in most circumstances can’t be questioned.
Lets now talk about the structure and positions held in the E.C.O.
With every part of every organisation, there is a requirement for leadership and troops on the ground. It is no different with the E.C.O.. It’s even legislated that were possible, the structure will include a chief warden, communications officer and deputy warden, area wardens and their deputies and emergency wardens. If a facility was to have all of these positions filled then it would be likely that there would be many employees and the building would be large.
For example. A place like the Sydney airport may fill all the positions, where McDonald’s fast food may have one or two people filling all the positions. This is the great thing about the emergency control organisation it can be flexible enough to change to a given environment within a facility.
The emergency services do a similar thing. If they are responding to a bin fire then only one fire truck is required. On the other hand, if responding to a large factory fire there will be many leaders and troops on the ground. Imagine how difficult it must be to deal with a 10,000 ha bushfire.
It is the role of the emergency planning committee (E.P.C) to establish how many members of the E.C.O. are required. Consideration should be given to the size of a facility and the number of occupants on-site at any one time. Furthermore, the complexity of installed firefighting and detection equipment and other engineered safety features.
Authority of the Emergency Control Organisation.
During emergencies, instructions and directions are given by the E.C.O shall take precedence over the normal management structure. Its therefore important that authority to act during an emergency is given to the E.C.O. by the facility managers. Quite often business managers get directly involved as wardens or chief wardens, but while an emergency is happening the E.C.O. is the leed organisation in combating the incident until the emergency services arrive.
I will take the passage from the Australian Standard because I think this next section is so important. “Facility owners, managers, occupiers and employers should obtain professional advice on the level of indemnity provided to ECO members. The ECO members should be advised of the level of indemnity provided”. The action of an E.P.C. and E.C.O. are often covered under the “Good Samaritan Act” but legal advice should be obtained where appropriate.
Selection Criteria for E.C.O. members.
I will briefly go through the rolls of each member and the attributes the E.P.C would be looking for.
The Chief Warden.
He/she should be able to perform their duties to a good standard, make critical decisions quickly and provide leadership with an ability to remain relatively calm under pressure. Be available to undertake their preparedness, prevention, response and recovery duties as required and capable of communicating with others effectively, Including visitors to the facility. Furthermore, they must be willing to undertake relevant training for the position.
The communication officer often takes on the role of Chief Warden in there absence. So it is imperative that they have a good knowledge of the functioning of a chief warden. They may operate communications equipment for the Chief Warden during an emergency and ideally be the Chiefs scribe. The chief may mentor this officer.
The area warden reports to the Chief and at times may perform the role of the chief. So good knowledge of the processes and systems of the emergency plan is paramount. They should have the same attributes as the Chief Warden and may assist in planning training exercises for emergency wardens.
Even though their role is to undertake activities to move occupants to safety and provide the first attack. They need to also have the attributes of the area warden. Good leadership and an ability to remain calm under pressure. They deal with occupants so excellent communication skills are required and respect within the organisation is essential.
Primary Roles and Duties.
The primary role of the E.C.O. is to protect life during an emergency. The following is some of the roles each position will perform.
Maintain a register of the E.C.O. and where a position becomes vacant. recruit and fills that position. Conduct regular exercises and ensure that emergency procedures are kept up to date and understood by all members. They should maintain there own personal identification, PPE and attend meetings of the E.P.C..
The person fulfilling this role should ensure that they are proficient at operating the communications equipment at the facility and maintain records and a logbook. Ensure they attend training and exercises, and provide training to Emergency Wardens in relation to the use of communications equipment used at the facility. Furthermore, maintain a contact register and ensure it is up to date at all times.
Where area wardens are appointed they should ensure sufficient warden coverage for all areas and coordinate the completion of personal emergency evacuation plans where they are required. Report to the chief any deficiencies and task emergency wardens to communicate emergency procedures to all occupants within their nominated area. Liaise with emergency wardens in relation to wearing appropriate attire during emergencies and the area warden should make themselves available for training and exercises.
Carry out fire safety activities by keeping exits clear, checking firefighting equipment is serviced to the standard and maintain personal identification. Wardens must also communicate emergency procedures to those in their area of responsibility. Where training is conducted make themselves available.
Actions During an Emergency.
The chief warden is required to take control and implement the emergency plan strategies and procedures to ensure occupant safety once the nature of the emergency is determined. They will ensure the emergency services have been notified where required, determine an objective and brief floor or area wardens. Monitoring the progress of any evacuation and providing advice and direction where required.
When the emergency services arrive he/she will provide a briefing on the nature of the incident and what has been done up until that time. They will then provide assistance to the emergency services as directed while maintaining a watch over the E.C.O..
When providing a briefing the Chief should use a S.M.E.A.C.S format. I.e. Situation; Mission; Exercutaion; Administration; Communications and Safety.
Deputy Chief Warden.
The role of the deputy warden during emergencies is to take over from the Chief if not available.
The comms officer will assist the Chief by taking notes and passing on instructions to the floor wardens. They will confirm with the chief that the emergency services have been contacted. In many cases, they may contact the emergency services for the chief.
It is the responsibility of the area warden to implement the action plan or procedures. Provide leadership to the emergency wardens and ensure that the emergency services have been notified. They may direct fire wardens to investigate abnormal situations and commence evacuation if required. Communicate with the Chief and brief him/her on the situation and what actions have been taken to date.
Where fire wardens require assistance they will co-opt occupants to help out. All fire wardens will report to the area warden on current progress and further activities that may need to be undertaken.
Emergency Warden or Fire Warden.
- Check Fire Doors and smoke doors.
- Double-check that everyone in their area of responsibility has evacuated (if required).
- Close doors and ensure an orderly flow of traffic, to protected areas, during evacuations.
- Act as a leader of a group proceeding to the assembly area.
- Assist occupants with disabilities.
- Report their status to the Chief or area warden.
- Carry out activities as directed by the Chief or area warden.
The Chief, once the scene is safe and the emergency services authorise, they will have the wardens move everyone back into the facility. A debrief with all E.C.O members will be organised and a report compiled for the E.P.C.
The communication officer will collate all of the reports for future reference and attend the debrief. As will the Area Warden if appointed.
Emergency wardens will compile their own report and make the information available for a debrief.
Identification of E.C.O. Members.
All members of the E.C.O. shall be identifiable by means of wearing at least one of the following.
A Helmet, Cap, Hat, Vest or tabard. The more identification worn the better and more likely occupants will follow their directions.
Identification should be prominently marked with the title of the warden.
- Chief = White.
- Deputy = White.
- Comms Officer = White.
- Area Warden = Yellow.
- Emergency/Fire Warden = Red.
- First Aid = Green.
We have looked at the roles and functioning of the E.C.O. who provide the initial response to emergencies. The structure and leadership ability of members will work to have a very effective emergency control organisation.