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Drills Catch Problems In Time




April 11, 2014 - Emergency Preparedness

The great thing about emergency preparedness drills, besides getting to bust out your clip pad and orange vest, is that they show you where the holes are in your response strategy before the building is actually on fire, or has a gaping hole in it, or has sprouted an internal waterfall. While you may expect drills to show gaps in communication flow or reveal that the remote evacuation location won't accommodate your entire population if your neighbor facility also has to evacuate (you've checked on that, right?), drills are also genius for pointing out the little things you would never have thought about that could become big things in the event of an emergency. Here are three unexpected lessons facility managers learned from past drills.

First lesson: Standard elevator keys are impossible to use while wearing a HAZMAT suit. During a drill, Jeff Ellis, security manager for the Pyramid Center in San Francisco, discovered that suited up firefighters could not get purchase on the keys while wearing their thick protective gloves. Adding extenders to the keys made it possible for fire fighters to use the keys while remaining fully protected.

Second lesson: Fancy is not always best. By putting their emergency response and disaster plan onto a webpage, Jose Guevara, property manager for the Post Montgomery Center in San Francisco, thought they were being modern and efficient. Perhaps so, but the first responders who would be coming to his facility wanted a trusty binder they could just flop down where needed to see a floor plan. That's not to say all first responder teams want floor plans in a binder, so have a chat with the teams in your area to find out what will work best for them.

Third lesson: Emergencies don't follow the rules. The mindset that something doesn't happen at your location or simply can't happen is a recipe for disaster. Logically, facility managers can't run physical drills for every imaginable emergency, but Jackson Talbot, director of security for the Pyramid Center, says that teams can do table-top exercises to game plan what they would do when the weird, wacky and impossible happens. Talbot says he assigns one of his staff to keep a lookout in the news for facility-related emergencies around the world and then they have a talk about what they would do.

Find out more in the March Building Operating Management cover story, "Ready. Set. Drill"

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