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Emergency evacuation planning taken to a new level

Jim Burtles, Hon FBCI, provides an overview of the Emergency Evacuation Planning Lifecycle which he has developed and explained in a new book.

For the past 12 years I have been emotionally attached and intellectually concerned with the events of 9/11 and as a business continuity specialist I have struggled with the problems associated with getting people to safety before their workplace becomes a prison or a tomb.

The end-result of many years of research, experiment and training is a robust and reliable structured approach to ensuring that people are best prepared to reach safety whenever danger looms. The very latest Business Continuity Lifecycle and its underlying principles have been adapted and applied to create a new or parallel discipline. Adherence to a clearly defined six-stage emergency evacuation planning (EEP) protocol raises the subject matter from the realms of an ad-hoc adventure to that of a disciplined practice with predictable and defendable results.

The six stages of the Emergency Evacuation Planning Lifecycle are:

  • Set up an emergency evacuation planning (EEP) programme
  • Embed EEP into the corporate culture
  • Understand the environment
  • Agree upon a suitable EEP strategy
  • Develop the evacuation procedures
  • Exercise and maintain those procedures.

When earnestly applied, this method can be used to provide cover for people of all ages, types and sizes; including those with special needs.

Now you can base your emergency evacuation plans upon realistic measurements and authoritative guidelines rather than estimates and guesswork.

Following the step-by step guide and supported by the tools and techniques; you can ensure that you will be able to protect your people and demonstrate best management practice at the inevitable post-event enquiry.

In the past there has always been a tendency to rely upon the Fire and Rescue service to set everybody free despite the facts that they:

  • May not arrive in time to prevent some damage or injury;
  • Are probably unfamiliar with the premises;
  • May have different ideas about the best solution to your problems;
  • Have no idea of who could be in the building or where they might be found;
  • May be dealing with another incident concurrently;
  • Do not have the primary responsibility for the health and safety of the occupants of your building.

Clearly this is a short-sighted and irresponsible attitude which could prove costly in terms of lives, jobs and reputation. Neither does it do much to inspire company loyalty or demonstrate corporate citizenship. Previously there may have been a reasonable excuse in the supposed fact that there were no guidelines with regard to good practice in this area. That is no longer true; we now have the means to meet the needs of our residents, workers and visitors.

Emergency Evacuation Planning is something quite specific and should not be mistaken for the more general subject of emergency planning nor should it be confused with the development of large scale evacuation plans for the community which are commonly prepared by emergency planning officers.

Here we are talking about personal safety with plans aimed at the individual level, perhaps customised for each distinct work area. In many situations there will be need for personalised emergency evacuation plans, or PEEPs as they are known.

Whilst EEP is a direct derivative of business continuity planning, it may not necessarily be regarded as an integral aspect of business continuity. It is just as likely to be implemented by those who are normally responsible for such people-based matters as health and safety, security or facilities management. Often the facilities manager will be the most likely candidate for this role because he or she is by nature a problem solver who is familiar with the environment, its people and their activities.

It is my sincere hope that every organization, commercial or otherwise, will engage with this vital subject and go to develop and exercise evacuation procedures. After all it is in the best interest of the company and its people.

The Emergency Evacuation Planning Lifecycle is described in detail in Jim’s new book ‘Emergency Evacuation for Your Workplace’. There is also a downloadable toolkit which is freely available to all those who purchase this book. Obtain the book from here.

•Date: 5th September 2013 • World •Type: Article • Topic: Buildings & facilities BC

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