Being prepared for possible evacuation

by FM Media
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Proper planning is critical for effective emergency management. HARTLEY HENDERSON looks at how to ensure effective evacuation procedures are in place.

Proper planning, including preparation of comprehensive evacuation procedures, is critical in ensuring that facility emergencies are effectively managed and risks reduced. Because key factors such as design, construction and occupancy can vary significantly from one building to another, emergency management plans should be designed to cater for individual facility requirements.

According to Commander Dominic Scarfe, manager of workplace emergency management at Melbourne’s Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB), an emergency plan should list possible hazards and set out procedures for dealing with various kinds of emergencies. He adds that it should include information on fire-fighting equipment and facility services.
A detailed warden structure plan should be prepared, evacuation diagrams should be provided throughout the facility and up-to-date contact lists for recovery and out of hours should be available.
“Importantly, plans should be based around the Australian Standard AS 3745-2010 – Planning for Emergencies in Facilities,” Scarfe states. “AS 3745 provides a framework for developing emergency planning and evacuation procedures. It includes the duties of the emergency planning committee and emergency control organisation, as well as provisions for occupants with a disability, and education and training requirements.
“An early task in the preparation of an emergency plan should be the conduct of a risk assessment of the facility and the creation of a register of safety assets and hazards. In particular, exits should be clearly marked and clear of obstructions.
“It is also important that an effective method of identifying and communicating an emergency is established, and that a business continuity plan is established including arrangements for off-site storage of information.”

Freshwater Place at Melbourne’s Southbank features two high-rise commercial buildings that have multiple tenants and consist of 36 and 24 levels respectively. Trish Finnegan at Jones Lang LaSalle is the commercial and tenant services manager for Freshwater Place. She says that emergency procedures developed for the buildings use the physical features of the site together with the use of the installed systems to assist in combating a potential emergency. Key aims are to ensure the safe evacuation of the buildings by all occupants and to minimise damage to property.
“To facilitate the emergency procedures, it is important to have a structured network of personnel who have the necessary authority and training to accomplish the task,” says Finnegan.
“In developing a plan there needs to be a scope and key objectives. The scope identifies the organisational structure, roles and responsibilities of the emergency control organisation (ECO) in order to manage the safe evacuation of all occupants at Freshwater Place.
“The first objective is to design and implement measures to reduce the effects of emergencies, followed by creation of strategies for the management of emergency response arrangements. It is then important to ensure that there is a documented system for evacuation of staff and visitors from the facilities.”
Finnegan emphasises the importance of continual training in being prepared for a possible emergency, and that, if an emergency does occur, the sequence of response events should be prioritised as best as possible and action items effectively communicated to the ECO.

Terry Attwell, Chubb Training Group’s state manager for Victoria and Tasmania, was a member of the committee that reviewed and re-released AS 3745-2010. He believes that proper emergency planning and training, including effective evacuation procedures, is the key to a safe workplace.
“There is a duty of care to ensure that emergency planning conforms to AS 3745. This Australian Standard provides the minimum requirements for workplace emergency procedures and evacuation. Some states and territories have applied the standard within their occupational health and safety acts and regulations. It is not directly referenced within the Building Code of Australia, but is indirectly referenced via AS 1670.4 and AS 1851,” he notes.
Attwell emphasises that building owners and facility managers have an obligation to provide information about emergency procedures to all people present in a building at any point in time, including staff, visitors and contactors.
“This information should be designed to assist evacuation of the premises in an orderly way, with clear diagrams that show evacuation routes and the location of fire-fighting equipment. Suitable areas to display information include entrances, lobbies, foyers, fire exits and conference rooms.
“Periodic workplace evacuation exercises must also be conducted to test the ability of staff and occupants to effectively and efficiently evacuate in response to an emergency. These exercises should include a pre-evacuation briefing, followed by debriefing of the warden team,” he concludes.

Hartley Henderson is a Victorian freelance journalist specialising in Australia’s commercial property sector.

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