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Are Your Tenants Safe?

Who will verify that evacuation is complete?

There are two general methods of verifying that all people have completed the evacuation or relocation process. One method is to take a roll call at the location where evacuees are sent. The other method is to conduct a post-evacuation search of evacuated areas.

The roll call method may be acceptable for certain facilities, however, for the majority of buildings it has several major limitations. In a large facility, it will be difficult to keep evacuated people grouped by tenancy or by floor, which is needed if a roll call will be feasible. Also, if building tenants do not track the location of each employee, individuals who are home sick, on vacation or out of the office at a meeting may be listed as missing. Finally, this method cannot account for visitors, clients or customers who may be in the building when an incident occurs. This method is most appropriate in facilities with secured access, where all occupants must sign in and out, so there is an accurate record of who is in the building.

The post-evacuation search method overcomes the limitations of the roll call method. Rather than attempting to verify the location of every known occupant, this method focuses on the evacuated areas of the building. Regulatory components should be contacted to determine under what conditions the building emergency team may conduct such a search, and when the regulatory components must conduct the search. The primary limitation to this method is that a search may not be feasible in an area near the initial incident. However, regulatory components may have special equipment and training to enter areas that would not be safe for emergency team members. In cases where emergency team members will be conducting searches, they must be familiar with the building layout and must be trained to conduct a thorough search. Areas such as restrooms, sound-proofed rooms and rooms containing noisy equipment are examples of spaces where people may miss the evacuation order and therefore warrant special attention.

In some situations, individuals may be unwilling to evacuate if the threat is not immediately apparent. For example, a busy executive may be unwilling to "waste his or her time" by evacuating during what he or she perceives as a "minor" incident. In another instance, an employee may be instructed to stay behind to "guard the fort." Will tenants be responsible for ensuring that all occupants leave their spaces, or will building management control evacuation? If people refuse to evacuate, what will the consequences be to those individuals? People could be reported to the authorities, reprimanded by their employers, refused future entry or be required to sign a form releasing management from liability resulting from the refusal to evacuate. The methods that will be used to deal with people who do not evacuate should be determined during the planning stage, so in the event of an incident the appropriate measures are already in place.

Where is the evacuation location?

For any evacuation or relocation strategy, the location should be identified. The area should be safe from the emergency, located to avoid conflicts with control and mitigation efforts, and be large enough to accommodate the number of people being moved. When occupants are directed to leave the building, they should be given a specific destination so crowds do not gather immediately outside the building exits. Such crowds could obstruct later evacuees, hinder arriving fire or rescue personnel, and be exposed to falling glass or other debris.

Two examples:

In the event that occupants are relocated within the building, the potential impact to operations on the floor of relocation must be considered. If a building contains a full-floor tenant with secured floor access and extremely strict security procedures, can occupants of an upper floor realistically be directed to relocate to that area? Any such potential conflicts should be identified and resolved so problems do not arise during an emergency.

In large-scale evacuations, such as those that might be ordered in a natural emergency, public shelters may be provided for people who do not have another place to go. The local emergency management office should be able to provide information regarding the sites that would be used for shelters. This information should then be included in the emergency plan.

How long will people need to remain in evacuation area?

Evacuated people will obviously need to remain away from their regular location for the duration of the emergency. However, in most cases when all or part of a building is evacuated, people will not need to remain at the evacuation site for long. People can simply be sent home if it becomes apparent that the incident will prevent re-entry to the workplace that day.

In some large-scale incidents, people may need to remain in evacuation sites for extended periods of time. Following an earthquake, occupants may need to remain in the building for up to 72 hours before emergency services are available.

What provisions will be needed at relocation areas?

At any area used for evacuation purposes, some general provisions should be available, including:

In situations where people may need to remain for extended periods of time, some additional provisions should be provided, or potential users should be instructed as to what provisions they will need to provide.

In large-scale incidents that can be predicted, like hurricanes, local government may provide public shelters equipped with sleeping and bathing facilities, meals and medical personnel. In the case of an earthquake, where a large-scale incident occurs without warning, local response capabilities may be overwhelmed for several days. Either on a building-wide or on an individual basis, provisions for several days worth of water and food should be provided. Building management should work with tenants to determine the best method for ensuring that these provisions are available.

During and after a hurricane, people may need to remain away from the affected area or in shelters for several days.

Evacuation/relocation examples

Regulatory components

Building components

Human components

Business components

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