Steps to Implement a Successful Evacuation and Emergency Plan

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In the event of serious contingencies such as fires, toxic emissions, explosions, floods, or earthquakes, a strict, meticulous, and detailed evacuation and emergency plan is required, known to all employees.

The competitiveness of companies is not only reflected in the constant improvement of their production systems.

It also demands optimizing workplace safety to protect the health and integrity of workers, especially in industries with a higher risk of accidents due to their characteristics or geographical location.

This is essential to face and mitigate the consequences of serious contingencies such as explosions, fires, toxic emissions, earthquakes, storms, and floods, among other possibilities.

To achieve this goal, companies need to have an Evacuation and Emergency Plan that allows their employees to act in a coordinated and effective manner in any of these situations.

Why do companies need an Evacuation Plan?

The central objective of an Evacuation and Emergency Plan is to provide the organization and the necessary knowledge to control or minimize the consequences of any contingency or emergency that occurs in the company.

For this purpose, it is essential that the plan allow:

  1. Understanding the workplace and its facilities to determine the existing hazards in different areas, as well as the available means of protection and priority needs during a contingency.
  2. Understanding all possible causes of an emergency, including those caused by the work itself, as well as natural and social factors (fires, explosions, earthquakes, floods, storms, strikes, or public disorders, among others). 
  3. Mitigating the impact of emergencies through detailed technical and operational information that allows personnel to act quickly, effectively, and safely.

What critical variables should be considered when implementing an Evacuation Plan?

In order to the plan to be effective, it is necessary to regulate various critical variables, such as:

  • Mandatory use of personal protective equipment, if necessary.
  • Design and maintenance of properly marked escape routes.
  • Establishment of safe areas within or outside the company (according to its characteristics).
  • Implementation of evacuation protocols known to all personnel.

The success of every Evacuation and Emergency Plan also relies on providing continuous training to workers, so they follow all the previously established instructions to prevent or mitigate the impact of workplace accidents or natural disasters on people’s health and integrity.

What should an Evacuation and Emergency Plan contain?

The Evacuation and Emergency Plan should be structured into a written document that contains a set of protection and prevention measures provided by the company. This document should detail all the possible emergency situations and it’s emergency procedures, such as:

  • Evacuating workers (totally or partially)
  • Activating the company’s emergency brigades.
  • Administering first aid to affected personnel.
  • Contacting external assistance services in case of injured workers requiring urgent attention.

It is also essential for the plan to consider and analyze all possible emergency situations so that the necessary measures are taken to prevent and mitigate them.

The personnel in charge of implementing these measures must also be designated and periodically check that they carry out their work in a timely and efficient manner.

This personnel must have technical or professional training and have the appropriate materials to perform their work correctly. 

For the Evacuation and Emergency Plan to be successful, it requires constant teamwork. Therefore, the company needs to inform all the workers:

  1. Types of risks present in the workplace (either due to the nature of the activity or potential environmental threats).
  2. Preventive measures designed to address these risks.
  3. Planned actions for total or partial evacuation of company facilities, depending on the situation.

It is also essential for the company’s management to organize contact networks with external entities to cover vital aspects such as emergency medical assistance, rescue of trapped personnel and firefighting, among other variables.

How to Develop an Effective Evacuation and Emergency Plan?

To create a well-structured Evacuation and Emergency Plan, it’s crucial to follow these parameters:

First Step: Identify different emergency situations

Identify the types of risks and their severity through an initial investigation, including the use of a “risk analysis matrix.”

Here it is critical to consider the characteristics of the different production processes, their structural conditions and the surrounding environment (for example, a chemical fire does not have the same effect in an industrial neighborhood as in the center of a city).

Therefore, it is necessary to:

  • Identify the facilities, their locations, and accesses.
  • Describe the work areas and potential risks.
  • Identify critical infrastructure and associated equipment (such as water facilities, gas, fire equipment, signage, emergency lighting, and alert systems, among others).
  • Appoint the owners for implementing the plan and establish their respective shifts.

From these analyses, the most common causes of emergencies are: 

  • Risks related to the activity itself, such as fires, explosions, leaks, spills, toxic and/or radioactive emissions, among others.
  • Risks related to the technological environment, such as contingencies in related industries, accidents in nearby construction sites, and collisions of cargo vehicles on nearby streets.
  • Risks from the natural environment, such as floods, thunderstorms, forest fires, snowstorms, hail, and avalanches, among others.
  • Risks related to the social environment, such as strikes, sabotage, assaults, attacks, or intentional fires, among others.

Second Step: Assess the severity of emergencies

Various assessment methodologies help identify different emergency situations based on each type of risk. This allows to define preventive and mitigation measures.

Based on the specific gravity, we can determine the following types of emergencies:

1. Incipient Emergency:

It is a situation of low severity that can be neutralized with the material and human resources available in the company and close to the accident site (e.g., a focused fire outbreak).

2. Partial Emergency:

A situation that cannot be immediately neutralized with the resources present in the company, requiring more specialized and complex resources. In these cases, evacuation may be only partial (e.g., the release of toxic gases from a fuel depot).

3. General Emergency:

It is a situation that exceeds the capacity of the company and its emergency brigades to act, so external help must be requested and the facilities must be completely evacuated (for example, the explosion of a chemical plant).

4. Civil Protection (or Extraordinary) Emergency:

A situation of collective risk caused by an event that poses an imminent danger to a large number of people or property. It requires quick action by public authorities to mitigate damages and prevent it from becoming a catastrophe (e.g., an earthquake).

Third Step: Emergency Planning

Once the possible emergency situations have been analyzed, the necessary material and human resources are identified to deal with them, defining the necessary guidelines for first aid, firefighting and evacuation of workers.

This planning also takes:

  1. Establishing contact with external services.
  2. Determining the frequency with which the correct functioning of the plan will be checked.
  3. Designating and training teams capable of preventing and addressing various contingencies within the company.

Moreover, all personnel, without exception, must be familiar with the measures outlined in the Evacuation and Emergency Plan and always follow the instructions in such situations. This includes training and reinforcement of the knowledge of each worker.

How to design an appropriate evacuation plan?

If the declared emergency requires the partial or total evacuation of the company, it is important that all workers are clear about the procedures and protocols to follow.

This requires the following:

  • Always use personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Know the evacuation procedures and follow the instructions of the responsible personnel.
  • Have horizontal and/or vertical evacuation routes, firefighting equipment, emergency showers, and materials for providing first aid.

Steps for a Successful Evacuation Procedure

For the evacuation procedure to be successful, it must adhere to the following parameters:

  1. Evacuation routes must ensure a safe, fast, and efficient exit of all workers to their respective safety zones, considering the number, capacity, and location.
  2. Exit doors should not open in the opposite direction of evacuation, should be clearly marked, and remain unobstructed.
  3. Exit doors can be partially closed when there are no emergencies, but they should never be locked, padlocked, or otherwise obstructed to prevent easy opening.

Furthermore, current labor safety regulations establish that workspaces and evacuation routes must always:

  • Have visible signage that identifies both danger zones (indicating the hazard or risk factor) and escape routes and designated safety areas.
  • Communicate the use of Personal Protective Equipment through visible and permanent signage.
  • Utilize symbols, images, and words that are easily understood and comply with the current regulations of each country.

At DataScope, we understand the value of implementing an efficient and safety Emergency and Evacuation Plan.

That’s why we offer a digital platform that allows you to continuously, efficiently, and safely check each stage of its design, implementation, and monitoring.

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