Emergency Evacuations are Fun

We’ve all been there…. You are working away when the alarm goes off, everyone looks to each other smiling, the smile turns to a quizzical look, then there is a final look of resignation and realisation (perhaps mixed with an element of irritation) that the alarm is going for a reason and you have to leave your work and evacuate the building. 

Whether it’s a fire drill, a chemical leak, a bomb scare or even heaven forbid a terrorist attack I’m sure you will agree that having a good emergency evacuation plan is a must.  In fact the Occupational Health & Safety Act says we must all have one.   Now I’m the first to admit that standing with your work colleagues out in your designated safety area is often a bit of a lark and even great fun if you have the right mix of people, but amongst the levity is usually an undercurrent of “is this for real?”  and “should I be taking this seriously?”  The answer to that question is definitely!

One of the problems we face when testing our emergency evacuation plan is getting everybody on board.  There will often be some resistance from workers to join in the evacuation, some will be too busy to leave and some (you know who you are) will be too important to leave.  This may be unique to certain industries and may also depend on the culture within your organisation. 

So how do we encourage everyone to take these drills seriously?  Here are a couple of tips on making your emergency evacuation drill run smoother and be more accepted in the workplace.

  • Plan for your evacuation drill well in advance and present the idea to management to include their input.
  • Pick a date which will be conducive to most i.e. don’t pick the 30th of June to evacuate if you are an accounting firm.
  • Communicate the emergency procedures to all employees prior to the drill, whether they have received them before or not.
  • Make sure each worker knows where they are to gather and who their warden is.
  •  Introduce a point system with a notice board displaying the department that was out first, all present and accounted for.
  • If it’s a big organisation you might provide some kind of incentive for the wardens, the warden who has their people out first (points deducted for the warden who has colleagues remaining inside the building (the important ones))

So I guess its time to ask the question.  Do you have an emergency evacuation procedure in place?  If the answer is no then take my advice and get one quick. 

If anything should happen and you don’t have an Evacuation Procedure in place you will be facing serious fines, and if you are ever audited by WorkCover or the regulator in your state, they will want to see one.  There are good procedures available from the site you are now visiting.

 I hope this has prompted you to swing into action and organise a drill soon.  Go on….they’re fun!

About the Author

Joanne Wallace is our resident "Safety Guru". Joanne has provided advice on safety management for the past 10 years and written hundreds of articles on safety issues and tips. Joanne has experience in many industries ranging from manufacturing, food processing, timber milling, retail, office and wholesaling providing her with knowledge and experience managing risk and injuries in these industries.

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