Over the past 60 or so blog posts, we have covered the emergency evacuation plan several times. Including many references to the most relevant Australian Standard – AS 3745-2010. This Australian Standard is designed to assist the emergency planning committee (EPC) prepare for emergencies in a given facility.
There is often a tendency to start the emergency plan for the business by putting together an evacuation plan to hang proudly on the wall. Don’t get me wrong – this is an essential function but several activities probably should occur well before this one.
What is an emergency evacuation plan?
Good emergency evacuation plans, and there are plans just put together for compliance purposes only. A good plan will always be moulded to suit a specific situation and facility. It will need to be tested using several scenarios to ensure that the people it protects are protected.
One of the best things any planner can do is to sit down with key personnel in an organisation for a brainstorming session. Going through risks and potential scenarios and what the consequences of these emergencies might be.
What a session like this does, is to fit an emergency plan of action that is likely to fit with the actions of a given facility or business. Let’s get back on track and define the emergency plan in the workplace. It is a group of procedures and systems designed to guide occupants and the emergency control organisation during an emergency. Often plans concentrate on a single or only a few scenarios. In reality, there is the potential for many types of emergencies from fires, medical emergencies, active shooters, bomb threats, and many more. Emergency plans and procedures should be able to guide any situation.
The emergency plan in the workplace
We have examined how the plan should fit a specific workplace or facility. Taking that one step further is essential and setting goals and objectives. Doing this will generally progress into strategies and valuable tactics. For example, AS 3745-2010 indicates that a fire warden should conduct two passes of a facility. This makes sure that everyone is evacuated to safety during an emergency.
The one thing that must be considered here is the safety of fire wardens and occupants during this second pass or looking around for occupants. The critical guiding influence is that such activities will only be done if it is safe to do so. It should be said, as an ex-emergency worker, sometimes colleagues and other aquantenances do perish. Sometimes there is nothing the emergency responder can do to change this situation.
Firefighters, paramedics and police have specialist skills, so in critical situations, ensuring a fire warden communicates effectively may be the difference between life and death for occupants. If your workplace emergency plan is well constructed, then it is likely that most if not all occupants will be kept safe and evacuated to safety.
The emergency management plan has four key principles
In the emergency management world, there are four guiding principles. The principles should guide the planning process, whether a catastrophic bushfire destroys many homes or a medical emergency involving several casualties.
These principles are as follows:
- Prevention – these are actions and processes to mitigate the likelihood of an emergency—for example, no smoking or naked flame policy in the vicinity of a fuel storage area.
- Preparedness – are actions taken during the planning process to ensure that there are responders available and procedures to guide them when an emergency does occur.
- Response – this is, again, the procedures and skills required for a fire warden or emergency responder during the response to a given emergency. For example, the training plan, part of the emergency management plan, provides specialist firefighting, medical and other knowledge for people designated as responders.
- Recovery – as the name suggests, this is the process predetermined to bring the facility or business back to normal operations after the emergency. In the past, often recovery has been a little under planned, which has been unfortunate for many businesses as they were unable to survive the emergency. Here, insurance, which can be expensive, may mitigate the risk to a business recovering after an emergency.
How often should an emergency action plan be reviewed
We will first look and see how Australian Standard 3745-2010 indicates that the plan should be reviewed wholly and yearly updated every five years.
When we analyse risks, as the emergency plan is being established. The time between reviews should become quite apparent. High-risk locations like a fuel storage facility might conduct a quarterly audit/review. In contrast, an office environment may conduct an audit and review of the plan every 12 months, as the Standard suggests.
In terms of establishing a whole new plan every five years. Suppose the yearly reviews have been completed thoroughly. Then the plan should be evolved and changed to suit a changing business. Therefore five-yearly complete reviews shouldn’t be required.
The health and safety professional
One of the primary roles of health and safety professionals is to mitigate risk and plan for emergencies. There are emergency management specialists in terms of the emergency management plan, whether prepared for response and recovery. Even so, for quite large organizations that employ a work health and safety expert. There is a need to ensure an experienced and qualified emergency manager reviews your plan. It may seem like more expensive, but in terms of the plan being workable and functional during an emergency, it is essential.
This suggestion isn’t downgrading the health and safety manager’s role. It’s just about getting professionals whose whole career and academic pursuits have been in the emergency management field.
When an Emergency Planning Committee within an organisation has no emergency management or health and safety qualified personnel, guidance should be provided by appropriate experienced and qualified consultants. It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Suppose the committee has put together general objectives and strategies. A consultant would only need to spend a day or two reviewing and making sure the emergency plan is on a suitable pathway.
It may also be advantageous to have them look at the final plan and provide information on potential scenarios designed to test the plan.
Contingency plan vs emergency response plan
Both contingency and emergency management plans are essential parts of planning for emergencies in a facility. Of course, the response plan is part of the emergency response, and the contingency plan is about recovery from an incident.
Many may have heard of a business continuity plan which could be called a contingency plan. It is designed to temporarily get a business operating again after an event that has disrupted the business. If done correctly, it will also provide a pathway to full recovery and normal operations as before the adverse event occurred.
We have done a complete article on the contingency plan and if you would like further information, refer to AS/NZS 5050:2010 (Business continuity – Managing disruption-related risk).
This article has probably evolved into comments on the emergency planning of which the evacuation plan is only part. Even so, the emergency evacuation will always evolve from setting objectives and strategies. Which in turn comes from conducting a thorough risk assessment. This then leads to recovery, business continuity, and a pathway back to normality for an organisation. If your organisation would like to discuss planning for emergencies, please call us at STG Fire Safety training.