This is part II of a 3-part series where we explore today’s challenges in emergency evacuation management and the opportunities for improvement offered by new innovations in safety technologies.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, accidents do happen. Or there’s a high enough probability that they might happen. Also: generally your company is legally required to have an emergency action strategy, featuring emergency exit routes and regular emergency evacuation drills.
So, whether triggered by an actual incident or as an exercise, your evacuation management will be tested.
Is it as strong as it needs to be? And is it as good as it can be today?
It’s definitely worthwhile exploring how technological advancements, applied to emergency evacuation management can assist you to:
- better ensure the safety of your employees, workers and visitors during an emergency.
- make emergency evacuations and evacuation exercises more efficient, saving time and productivity, which saves lives and cuts cost.
- broaden as well as deepen your current emergency strategy and procedures with new and stronger tools and options.
No man left behind
… and ideally also no man inconvenienced that needn’t be. Your evacuation alert should guarantee that absolutely everyone who needs the evacuation warning actually receives it. No matter where they are, whatever they’re doing and as soon as possible. You should be able to target all of your employees or a selected group and make sure to include visitors. Regardless of them being indoors and outdoors, or on different levels of a building/site.
New technologies introduced by now proven solutions that are capable of reaching everyone present on your site individually, e.g. through smart badges. And because these offer two-way communication, safety managers can activate an emergency-mode allowing them to keep track of every person and account for them in real-time.
Standard procedure during an evacuation is that all personnel gather at predefined muster zones or refuge areas. There, everyone is identified and checked against a list to verify all are accounted for. In a classic evacuation system this presents a cumbersome, error-prone process while there is no time to lose and no room for errors.
Regarding no time to lose: this obviously affects those unaccounted for during an actual emergency, but during drills there is the clear benefit of minimizing the inevitable production time lost.
Today’s top tier, evacuation management solutions allow you to add, change, expand/shrink or relocate muster zones. While in real-time relaying directions and safest route information to all or specific parties concerned.
Once an employee, worker or visitor has entered the muster zone, he or she is automatically identified, considered safe and checked off the list. Result: an accurate, hassle free headcount, even under duress.
Dynamic hazard zones
There are plenty of factors that might impact the location or radius of the area(s) considered hazardous. That is why safety managers plan for a broad range of possible scenarios. But incidents are often inherently unpredictable. And the more variables in a strategy, the harder to train for all of them.
That’s why the new generation of better evacuation management platforms not only enable you to adjust muster zones but also to dynamically adapt to changes in hazard and no-go zones. Fire-, flooding-, chemical dispersion-, violence-scenario’s don’t tend to stick to a fixed location. These changes in no-go areas are then automatically and instantly passed on to the evacuees and their respective safe routes to the muster zone or refugee area.
As mentioned above, the two-way communication feature of today’s smart evacuation management solutions provide real-time identification and location. Of employees, workers and visitors that have not (yet) reached their muster zones. Including those that don’t seem to be on their way towards safety. This generates a faster checking up on these individuals while offering valuable information to emergency services.
At the same time, these solutions should be smart enough not to confuse a disregarded or forgotten smart badge with a missing worker.
Better evacution management: the long story short …
… the ability to alert, locate and identify both your employees and visitors in real time, can take your existing emergency evacuation management to the next level. It builds upon, and should be effortlessly integrated into your already established system of evacuation training, planning and protocols. It will allow you to manage all aspects of an evacuation but last … and foremost: it will help you save lives.
In Part I we summed up the seven most common mistakes in emergency evacuations. Part III takes a closer look at some real solutions implemented by a growing number of companies to significantly augment their emergency evacuation efficiency.