How to ensure everyone is evacuated safely during a security threat?

How to ensure everyone is evacuated safely during a security threat?

As the current threat level for international terrorism in the UK is severe, it’s now time for every business owner to ensure they have comprehensive and up-to-date evacuation procedures in place.

Although similar, emergency evacuation procedures caused by security threats, are tailored differently to fire evacuation procedures. For example, evacuating a building to a nearby car park or to a clearly marked evacuation point in a public area isn’t sensible as is evacuating to a location within 500m of a building.

A Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan, known as a ‘PEEP’, must also be in place to ensure the needs of all employees and visitors, especially those who are mobility-impaired, are adhered to. 

With any emergency, it’s about getting everyone out of a building safely during evacuation as managing director at Evac+Chair International, Gerard Wallace, explains.

It’s an employer’s responsibility to ensure safe evacuation

As stated in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, it’s no longer the responsibility of the fire service to facilitate evacuation of non-domestic premises, it’s an employer’s.

As a result of this, company owners must ensure their buildings are well prepared for evacuating all – employees, visitors, students or the mobility-impaired – safely and efficiently.

Alongside coherent and wide-ranging evacuation procedures, trained team members who have undergone practical training in the operation of any evacuation equipment, must be in place.

As well as regular fire evacuation procedures, regular drills for the provision of security threats should be held to ensure all staff are familiar with procedures.

Pre-planning is essential

During a security threat, no matter what the circumstance, it can be difficult to stay calm and collected which is why pre-planning is essential in order to anticipate, identify and mitigate any problems with evacuation, especially for those who are mobility-impaired.

The government gives specific recommendations during a terror threat; run, hide, tell. However, not all people can escape from danger quickly so it’s the responsibility of the business owner – also referred to as the responsible person – to ensure safe, fast and easy evacuation for all.

Under legislation, the responsible person must develop a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan, known as a ‘PEEP’. The aim of these plans is to provide people who cannot get themselves out of a building unaided during an emergency, with the necessary information to be able to manage their escape from the building.

But it is not just for people with physical disabilities. PEEPs are for anyone who will need help during an evacuation including children, the elderly or frail, anyone with a temporary condition or people who may not be able to use stairs, hear the fire alarm or move quickly which might hinder their escape.

Well thought through PEEPs are important in making our workplaces safe for everybody and demonstrate commitment to improving accessibility.

During the pre-planning stage, that’s the time where difficult questions need to be answered to ensure everyone can evacuate a building safely during an emergency. Questions your responsible person must adhere to in pre-planning are:

  • Do we have an emergency evacuation plan?
  • Have we considered everyone in our PEEP?
  • Do we have the correct evacuation equipment which can ensure everyone’s safety?
  • Do we have a trained, incident response team?
  • Do we have regular evacuation drills to check our procedures?

Gary Hicks, emergency management consultant and manager of the Evac + Chair DMCC branch, UAE, at Evac+Chair International, hosted a workshop about evacuation during security threats or terrorism at The Health & Safety Event at Birmingham’s NEC in April.

He says: “Over the past two decades, the security incidents on the western world’s tall buildings have been well documented. During that time, many considerations and processes have been implemented to reduce the risks associated with these events happening in the future.

“It’s the responsibility of an employer to ensure everyone is evacuated to safety.  They must ensure their emergency response teams and management are specially trained to deal with an incident until the emergency services arrive on the scene and take control.

“Now more than ever, evacuation plans need to be considered, well-documented and taken seriously so that we do everything possible to ensure every building user’s safety.”

Assisted equipment ensuring the vulnerable are safe during evacuation

It’s a legal requirement for business owners to provide a means of escape for everybody using their buildings. All evacuation aids must be located in a designated refuge point but, undoubtedly, evacuation chairs have proved to be the most efficient and user-friendly as they enable the operator and passenger to safely exit the building quickly and efficiently.

It was during one of the most devastating terrorist incidents of the 21st century that an Evac+Chair carried John Abruzzo, a C 5-6 quadriplegic who relies on an electric wheelchair for mobility, from the 69th floor of Tower One of the World Trade Center on 11th September 2001, to safety.

In addition to evacuation chairs, many types of evacuation products may be required such as slide sheets, rescue mats or stretchers in order to meet different requirements.

Evac+Chair offers a simple and effective solution to ensure a safe exit from tall buildings in any emergency situation.


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