An evacuation is a necessary safety measure that businesses in Australia may need to undertake in certain emergency situations. These can include natural disasters such as bushfires and floods, as well as man-made emergencies such as chemical spills or building fires. Being prepared for an evacuation can help to ensure that employees and customers are able to leave the premises safely and quickly, minimising the risk of injury or harm.
One of the most prominent and widely discussed case studies of why being prepared is critical, is the Grenfell Tower fire in London in 2017.
The building was owned by the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO), an organisation that manages social housing properties in the area.
On the night of the fire, residents of the building were advised to stay in their apartments by KCTMO, despite the London Fire Brigade’s guidance to evacuate the building immediately. The guidance was based on the fact that the building’s cladding, which was installed during a renovation, had failed fire safety tests and was combustible. This delay in evacuation led to the loss of 72 lives and 70 injuries.
It was later found that KCTMO had failed to properly maintain the building’s fire safety systems, including faulty smoke alarms and a lack of fire sprinklers. The organisation also failed to conduct regular fire safety inspections and evacuation drills, and did not have a clear emergency response plan in place.
The Grenfell Tower fire serves as a tragic reminder of the importance of proper emergency planning and preparation in the event of a fire or other emergency. This incident shows that emergency evacuation planning is not only a legal requirement for businesses but also a moral obligation to protect the safety of employees and customers.
It is important for any business to have emergency plans and procedures in place and have regular evacuation drills. Regular checks on emergency and fire safety systems and equipment should also be done as well as to ensure emergency exits and escape routes are clear and clearly signed. Furthermore, an emergency response team should be designated and trained to handle and coordinate emergency situations, and to communicate with emergency services.
Here are 8 tips on how to stay safe during an evacuation for Australian businesses:
1 – Develop an emergency response plan: It is important to have a clear and well-communicated emergency response plan in place that outlines the procedures for leaving the premises in case of an emergency. This plan should include designated evacuation routes, assembly points, and procedures for accounting for employees and customers once they have left the building. It should also include procedures for addressing the needs of people with disabilities or other special needs.
You will need to also ensure occupants can safely move to the assembly area or locate emergency equipment as needed, it is crucial to display evacuation diagrams along paths of egress.
2 – Conduct regular emergency drills: Regular evacuation drills can help employees and occupants to become familiar with the emergency response plan and to move quickly and efficiently in the event of an emergency. These drills should be conducted at different times of the day and in different weather conditions to ensure that everyone is prepared for any situation. You should also consider the type of evacuation. For example, a lockdown drill may involve evacuation at some point, but not as immediate as a fire drill.
3 – Train employees: It is important to train employees on how to respond to an emergency, including how to shut down equipment and utilities, how to use fire extinguishers and other safety equipment, and how to assist customers and other employees. Regular training can help employees to stay calm and to act quickly in case of an emergency.
4 – Identify and address hazards: Businesses should identify and address potential hazards in the workplace, such as blocked exits, storage of flammable materials, and other hazards that could impede a safe evacuation. The workplace should be kept clean and well-maintained, with a clear and well-lit path to exits.
5 – Have emergency contact numbers: All employees and customers should have emergency contact numbers available, such as emergency services and local authorities, as well as contact information for the business. This will ensure that everyone has access to help in the event of an emergency.
6 – Have emergency kits ready: Emergency kits should be readily available, including first aid kits and emergency supplies such as torches, radios, and whistles.
7 – Keep informed: It is important to be aware of the weather forecast and emergency warnings. Stay up to date with local news, and any warning messages from emergency services. This will help you to make informed decisions about evacuating the premises. Your business continuity planning can help build processes and regular reviews on how your team are keeping informed.
8 – Be prepared for post-evacuation: It is also important to be prepared for the aftermath of an evacuation. This includes having plans in place for dealing with any damage to the premises and addressing the needs of employees and customers once they have returned.
In conclusion, being prepared for an evacuation is crucial for keeping employees, customers and the public safe during an emergency. Identifying and addressing hazards, having emergency contact numbers and kits, as well as keeping informed can also help to ensure a smooth evacuation process and a quick return to normal operations.
Bounce Readiness are experts in helping organisations achieve all these 8 points and more, so reach out to discuss how we can help today.