The order to initiate evacuation may come from a variety of sources, depending on the situation. For each situation where evacuation may be necessary, the entities that will have the authority to initiate evacuation must be identified. In various situations, the decision to evacuate can be made by a regulatory component, the building emergency team leader, an individual member of the emergency team or any individual in the building.
Local emergency management authority may order evacuation of areas where severe flooding is expected.
Fire department may order evacuation of all floors above the floor where a fire is growing.
Emergency team leader may order evacuation after a bomb threat is received.
Floor warden may order floor evacuation if conditions on the floor deteriorate and communication is unavailable.
Individual discovering a fire should leave the area and also tell other individuals nearby to evacuate. (Note: Other actions may also be necessary, like closing doors to fire areas, activating manual fire alarm, calling fire department, etc.)
When will order be given?
The timing of the evacuation order should relate to the immediacy of the threat. Some emergencies pose a threat so immediate that evacuation or relocation must be ordered as soon as the situation is detected. Other situations will warrant monitoring and a heightened level of attention, so that if evacuation becomes necessary, it can be expedited.
A hazardous materials release may require immediate evacuation both of those people within the area of initial release and also those people occupying facilities downwind.
A fire in a high-rise building may warrant immediate evacuation of a specified number of floors to remove occupants at risk and to clear areas needed for fire department operations.
A fire in a high-rise building may warrant notification of the incident to occupants on floors not affected by the incident so they are made aware of the situation, are reassured that the situation poses no immediate threat and will be ready to evacuate should it become necessary.
In many cases, the decision to order evacuation will not be an easy one. The entity responsible for making the decision will need to weigh the inconvenience to those evacuated against the likelihood that the emergency could cause serious consequences. However, consider that any embarrassment to building management (or local government) because a potential threat did not escalate to a major incident will be minor when compared to the implications arising from injuries or deaths resulting from a decision not to evacuate.
In a bomb threat situation, those in authority will need to assess the likelihood that the threat is real. Evacuation could be ordered immediately, or a search for suspicious packages could be initiated with evacuation only if such an object is found. (In landlord/tenant situations, the parties should determine during this planning phase which party will have the authority to order evacuation.)
A local government orders evacuation of an area downwind from a vehicular accident involving possible hazardous materials release.
How will notification be made?
Because notification and communication issues have already been outlined in previous sections, the means of providing notification of an evacuation order should already be identified. A review of the previous sections should provide information for verifying that adequate notification can be made.