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4  FM quick reads on evacuation

1. Planning for Safe Evacuations

MS

This is Chris Matt, Associate Editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today’s tip is planning for safe evacuations.

Maintenance and engineering managers understand life safety must come first in emergency preparations. However, they often spend too little time developing strategies to get people out of a building, particularly people who cannot use the stairs to evacuate.

For those planners who do consider human capital first, here are two key questions:
• Do you know everyone who comes in and out and spends time in your building everyday?
• Do you know if all of these people could safely evacuate the building without using stairs in an emergency?

Information forms the backbone of every successful emergency-preparedness plan. Gathering information about a facility’s current accessibility provisions will tell managers what they must add to meet the needs of those who cannot use stairs to safely evacuate.

Communication is key and managers need to ask the right questions. What they need to find out is, “Would you need assistance in evacuating the building if the elevators were shut down?” That question is not offensive to anyone’s personal situation, and it begins the dialogue.

In emergency preparedness, the adage, “practice makes perfect” is absolutely true. Once managers know what the building can support and who is in it, the next big step is planning and implementing regular drills.


2.  Fire: No Time to Wait

It’s not uncommon to see people fighting a fire waiting to take action until they know where a fire is, or waiting to act until they have more information than just the sound and sight of a fire alarm. The natural human reaction is to wait. But in a fire, seconds count.

Due to the greater use of synthetic materials, which can burn hotter and faster than non-synthetics, safe evacuation times have been greatly reduced. For example, 30 years ago, if a home caught on fire, occupants had about 15 minutes to get out safely. Now they have at most four minutes. A similar trend exists in commercial facilities.

The natural hesitation to act in the face of fire and the greatly decreased window for evacuation underlines the need for a robust fire safety training program. Having several fire drills a year and continually keeping fire safety in the minds of occupants will help them act appropriately and quickly when there’s no time to hesitate.

3.  Planning for Safe Evacuations

This is Chris Matt, Associate Editor of Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today’s tip is planning for safe evacuations.

Maintenance and engineering managers understand life safety must come first in emergency preparations. However, they often spend too little time developing strategies to get people out of a building, particularly people who cannot use the stairs to evacuate.

For those planners who do consider human capital first, here are two key questions:
• Do you know everyone who comes in and out and spends time in your building everyday?
• Do you know if all of these people could safely evacuate the building without using stairs in an emergency?

Information forms the backbone of every successful emergency-preparedness plan. Gathering information about a facility’s current accessibility provisions will tell managers what they must add to meet the needs of those who cannot use stairs to safely evacuate.

Communication is key and managers need to ask the right questions. What they need to find out is, “Would you need assistance in evacuating the building if the elevators were shut down?” That question is not offensive to anyone’s personal situation, and it begins the dialogue.

In emergency preparedness, the adage, “practice makes perfect” is absolutely true. Once managers know what the building can support and who is in it, the next big step is planning and implementing regular drills.

4.  Fire Safety - Practice Makes Perfect

Your fire protection plan includes a strategy for occupant evacuation in an emergency. As with anything else, in order for that leg of the plan to work, you've got to practice, practice, practice. In the stress and confusion of an actual emergency building occupants must instinctively know how to respond. All too often building occupants are well aware of when the next fire drill is going to be. This blunts the kind of muscle memory response necessary in an emergency. For a successful drill, it's important to make it as lifelike as possible. You have to give notice that they're drills, but you have to catch occupants a little off guard as well. While being sensitive to business needs, try to give as little advance warning as possible and vary the scenario. Don't do something obvious like walk around with a clipboard and a stopwatch. You should also change up the evacuation scenario . The fire safety team could block off a corridor or stair well to force occupants to find their secondary exit for example. Do whatever you need to do to give people a real sense of what it's going to be like when they're forced to walk down ten flights of stairs and train them until their emergency response is second nature.


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