Home >  Blog  > What to Consider When Planning for Workplace Emergencies and Evacuations
What to Consider When Planning for Workplace Emergencies and Evacuations
by Leigh Harris

Sometimes planning for the unplannable can seem daunting. There are a lot of possible risks to consider when planning for an emergency in your workplace, and some workplaces are more at risk than others. Fire is often the main concern, but there can be other risks like bomb threats, gas leaks or civil disobedience.

What is an Emergency Evacuation Plan?

An emergency evacuation plan makes sure everyone knows what they should be doing in the case of an emergency. It is a requirement that all PCBUs (persons conducting a business or undertaking) have an emergency plan in place. It is very important to prepare a plan of action so that in the case of an emergency, the best possible outcome is achieved. The aim is always to ensure the safety of the workers and limit the damage to property as much as possible.

What should your Emergency Planning include?

The plan should have things like emergency contact information for people like fire wardens and first aid personnel, the contact details for emergency services, a description of the fire alarm or other alerting mechanisms, arrangements for workers with disabilities, a map, and several other post-incident instructions.

How do you alert employees in the case of an Emergency?

Most people use an alarm system, preferably two-tone. The first tone alerts people and prepares them to evacuate, while allowing time for the fire wardens to go to their designated posts and receive information about the incident from the Chief Warden and perform their duties.  The second tone lets everyone know that it is time to evacuate the building.

How do you develop an Evacuation Policy?

To create your Evacuation Policy there are several steps. It’s important to first understand all the risks that your workplace faces. It is essential to know about your critical factors, such as a machine that can only be operated by a specific, technically qualified individual.

You need to collect a list of the emergency contacts, including local state emergency services. You could create an emergency kit, and you will need to organise for wardens. Wardens are specially trained members of your staff that can deal with emergencies.

It is recommended that Evacuation Drills are carried out once a year. It’s important that in these drills workers are informed about their roles. It is a good idea to have a trained professional conduct these drills. It is essential to rehearse your plan. Most importantly, make sure that these are updated regularly.

Who should you coordinate with when drafting your Emergency Response Plan?

When drafting your Emergency Response Plan, you should consult the ECO (Emergency Control Organisation), your staff, and other tenancies nearby if you are in a shared tenancy situation. This could be multiple businesses sharing the same building. You should also seek advice from your fire services provider and a qualified Fire Safety Adviser.

What is the role of coordinators and evacuation wardens during an emergency?

Coordinators and Wardens are armed with specialised knowledge about the emergency. For example, a Fire Warden knows which extinguishers to use on which kinds of fire. They know about the procedures in more detail and are figures of authority in an emergency. Wardens make sure everyone has been evacuated and report to the Chief Warden with any information they have about the emergency from their area that may prove useful to emergency services. Wardens should receive training to take on this responsibility.

What role should employees paly in your emergency action plan? How often should they be trained?

Employees should be familiar with the plan. They need to know what to do at different stages of the evacuation. This should be reinforced by regular training. It is suggested that Emergency Evacuation Drills take place once a year, and every six months if your workplace is particularly at risk or if it has a high turnover of employees. Proper signage in the form of clear Evacuation Diagrams greatly improves the likelihood of an Emergency Plan’s success. Some employees may be sent to training to become Fire Wardens, and if that is the case they play an essential role in the ECO (Emergency Evacuation Organisation). If your workplace is spaced over multiple floors and has multiple shifts, it is important to make sure there are enough wardens to cover all areas and all hours of operation.

What special equipment should you provide for emergencies?

It is important to provide equipment like fire extinguishers, fire blankets, eye wash stations (if relevant), hose reels and first aid kits. You will need to consult with your fire services provider for specifics for your workplace.

What can happen if plans are out of date?

If plans are out of date a few different scenarios could occur. You could receive a fine for being non-compliant in your workplace. In the case of an emergency, having out of date plans can cause potentially fatal harm to your employees. If there is a fire spreading and employees look to an incorrect Emergency Evacuation Diagram, they could get trapped in an area with no exits.

How can Safety Graphics assist you so that you are compliant with AS3745:2010?

Safety Graphics can provide your workplace with fully compliant Emergency Evacuation Diagrams and Flip-Charts. We offer a reliable service and provide high quality diagrams. We can give you the peace of mind that comes with knowing you have done everything you can to ensure the best outcome for your employees and property in the case of an emergency.