Evacuation is the rapid removal of people from immediate or threatened danger in a safe and orderly manner.
Reasons an evacuation would be considered:
- To move people from possible danger to safety.
- A situation that cannot be contained exists in the building.
- Emergency Services require the building or area to be cleared.
- The emergency may escalate quickly and without warning.
Typical triggers for an evacuation include:
- Fire alarms
- Power failures
- Biological hazards
- Chemical spills
- Bomb or substance threats
- Structure collapse
- Gas leaks
- Water leaks
- External hazard affecting the building
The authority to order an evacuation of the immediate area shall rest with the senior staff member/Warden in consultation with the Chief Warden.
The designation of specific occupants for immediate evacuation should be made by the Chief Warden at the time.
The overall facility evacuation is vested in the Chief Warden.
The Chief Warden needs to assess the following aspects in regard to the evacuation of staff and visitors to the site/building:
- The safety of the occupants evacuating
- The seriousness and relevance of the threat to human safety
- The speedy and rapid evacuation of occupants
- Where the occupants are to be evacuated to
- The nature and type of occupant in the relevant area
- Assessment of the unfolding emergency including the proximity of hazards which may be relevant to the situation
- Removal of people from the immediate danger area/room
- Removal to a safer area, evacuation to adjoining fire/smoke compartment on the same floor (if exists onsite)
- Complete evacuation of the building
Egress Route Considerations
- Utilising the nearest available exit
- Utilising fire isolated stairs (if fitted), fire escapes and other safe routes
- Not using the lift (where practicable) due to possible power failure
Other Evacuation Considerations
- The needs of mobility impaired staff or visitors.
- The turnaround of specific equipment used for evacuation e.g. wheelchairs, evacuation devices and blankets.
- Preventing people from re-entering buildings when it is not safe, especially if you have many ground floor exits.
- Where possible, utilise a brightly coloured, obvious sign that states: ‘Emergency In Progress – DO NOT ENTER’ attached to the door or door handle
- These signs should be kept in a convenient place near the relevant exits so they can be accessed at any time
Alarm Signal or Emergency Notification
- Upon hearing the alarm signal or when notified of an emergency the person in charge of the room, or the area Warden, should proceed as they have been trained in accordance with the Emergency Management Plan.
- Everyone in the area should be gathered to the muster point, ready to evacuate at the direction of the Chief Warden.
- Any special requirements or actions (such as PEEPs) should be activated.
- Upon commencing evacuation of the area, Wardens should ensure the smooth egress of all people and check the area to ensure no one is left.
- Once area has been evacuated, the Warden should report to the assembly area.
After each emergency all ECO and EPC members shall meet and participate in a Debrief.
An evacuation is about saving as many lives as possible. Evacuees from a building due to an emergency may include
- People with disabilities
- People tend to exit building the way they entered, as these are familiar exits, even if other appropriate exits are closer. Emergency exits are often perceived as unsafe, unfriendly and unknown.
- Panic (as an inappropriate or excessive fear and/or flight reaction) is actually an uncommon response to evacuations. People are more likely to respond in an orderly and cooperative way as an emergency induces the development of a common identity in response to a threat.
- People may panic if trapped but not often during a normal evacuation.
- Most people will stop and help another person even in dangerous situations.
- Without clear evacuation messages or alarm systems, most people keep doing what they are doing.
- Some people will search for better information from an ‘Expert’ or ‘Official’ such as a Warden or Emergency Services Officer.
- People take cues from others to understand the situation. If everyone else is evacuating, most people will tend to follow, like sheep.
If an evacuation to the outside is appropriate, the nominated assembly areas for personnel will be far enough away from the building to ensure that, where practicable, everyone is protected from falling glass and other objects.
Ideally the areas selected will be sheltered from the affected building and should allow for further movement away from any possible source of danger.
In some instances, evacuation may be to another nominated area, internal or external, such as another floor.
Choosing a Good Assembly Area
- Consider the following elements in order to choose the best possible area for people to evacuate to:
- Available at all times day and night.
- No keys or special access requirements.
- Within a short walk from your building.
- Protected by other buildings or objects.
- Not on a road or area that has vehicle traffic.
- Not requiring evacuees to cross busy roads.
- Enough space to accommodate all evacuees at peak occupancy times.
- Consider several different assembly areas and name them.
Changes to Nominated Assembly Areas
- Every building with an Emergency Control Organisation should have a primary assembly area. The assembly area should be listed on your evacuation maps.
- Changes to assembly areas should be decided on by the ECO.