Suddenly, the unthinkable happens—fire, flood, power outage, bomb threat—you and your employees must leave the building immediately!
Unfortunately, events like this happen all too often and as managers, we need to be prepared.
A written, communicated and tested Evacuation module is an essential piece of your Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP). Make sure EVERY employee is familiar with it.
Employee safety Is most important
Machines, equipment, and furniture can all be replaced—you and your employees can not.
Your DRP must take the approach of employee safety first. All else is secondary.
Simple, understandable instructions are key. Here’s how to do it.
When to evacuate without approval
There are going to be events when employees should not have to wait for manager approval to leave the premises such as fire, flood, etc. It is very important that your DRP list these events so employees can react quickly.
Conditions that need approval before evacuation
Other times, management needs to approve leaving the premises such as power outage, extended internet downtime, or prolonged network issues.
Events such as these interfere with doing business and may warrant closing the office with management’s OK.
Directing an orderly evacuation
The DRP should specifically identify the routes employees are to take when leaving the building.
On the flip side, the DRP should explicitly identify routes not to use in certain situations (i.e. No elevators during a fire, etc.). Many injuries and deaths have occurred when employees used elevators as escape routes during fires.
In all emergencies, appointed personnel should direct an orderly evacuation and make sure that safe routes are being used under the circumstances and that the office is fully vacated.
It is also a good idea to identify congregation points, a safe distance away from the building, so management can make sure all personnel are accounted for.
All should know that instructions from law enforcement and first responders supersede the DRP.
Vigorously test the Evacuation Plan
When disaster strikes, it is paramount that employees know what to do. Therefore, the instructions must be ingrained into staff through frequent testing.
If your office is in a larger building, they no doubt have evacuation drills which require your company’s participation. Your DRP should incorporate the building’s instructions by working together with them to make sure both plans are compatible.
You should conduct frequent evacuation drills using the scenarios identified in your plan’s Threat Matrix. Make sure employees know what to do, which routes to take in various conditions and where to meet after they leave the premises.
Be as comprehensive as possible, ask your local Fire Department for advice and… test, test, test.
After each drill, debrief and revise your DRP as necessary and communicate revisions to staff. Then afterwards, as a famous commercial once said, “rinse and repeat.”
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