Modern-day risk: ensuring safe and prompt building evacuation

The days of taking a tick-box response to managing health and safety risk are over.  Buildings  and the way they are being used are changing and there are also emerging risk factors such as technological innovations, the growth in inclusivity,   and even terrorism. All of these developments are prompting changes to the way in which organisations prepare for and manage health and safety risks, and specifically for the emergency evacuation of buildings.

Safe evacuation

Contrary to popular belief, the safe and prompt evacuation of any building is not the responsibility of the emergency services, instead it is a designated ‘responsible person’ who must ensure that every occupant within a building is able to exit the building safely in the event of an emergency.

Clear leadership and ownership of emergency planning and evacuation is essential to ensure that planned procedures are effective in protecting the health and safety of a building’s occupants, including those with mobility issues.

Strong leadership and clear communication are fundamental when it comes to changing behaviours to address  emerging risk scenarios because they facilitate the preparation of inclusive evacuation plans and ensure that everyone is clear about their role and responsibility. in the event of an emergency.

New risks

1. Technological innovations

Continued innovation is enabling greater working flexibility, including remote working As part of ensuring the health and safety of a building and its occupants, it is best practice essential to have access to an accurate head count which means that it is now more important than ever to ensure that sign in and sign out procedures are rigorously maintained in all buildings.

2. Greater inclusivity

The Equality Act (2010) has prompted continuous improvements in building design and accessibility to ensure that both work and living spaces are as inclusive and accessible as possible.

This increase in inclusivity means that people who are mobility-impaired now have greater opportunities to access and move around buildings, increasing the need for people-centred emergency and evacuation planning.

To ensure the needs of all building occupants are accounted for, those who are mobility-impaired must be identified and planned for. A Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP) should be devised by a building’s responsible person in order to comply with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (2005). This states that each responsible team member must be aware of their role in the event of an emergency and be educated to ensure every person is evacuated safely from a building.

The PEEP should consider all those who are mobility-impaired, hearing-impaired or visually-impaired. In particular, it needs to consider who will support them in the event of an emergency and what additional training and equipment is required to aid the evacuation process.

3. Terrorism

Although this may not be seen as a universal threat to businesses, there are certain sectors that remain on high alert to such threats at all times – such as government buildings, transport, hotels and the leisure industry.

How organisations can adapt to the changing risks that terrorism may present comes down to individual building risk assessments e.g. event organisers have increased bag searches and some transport hubs are putting up barriers which prevent vehicles being able to drive into buildings.

Emergency planning procedures for security threats are different to those for fire evacuations. For example in the event of a fire a nearby car park may be deemed a safe evacuation point, whereas for a security threat it may be necessary to evacuate  people to a further, alternative safe location.

This highlights the need for a full risk assessment to include scenario planning so that alternative evacuation measures are in place for various situations that may arise.

Adapting to the changing nature of risk

It is important to ensure that people are at the heart of the plans. Emergency evacuation is not a ‘one-size’ fits all approach, it needs to cater for all of the different needs of the building’s occupants – especially those who are mobility-impaired. A site assessment to identify risks and recommend the best approaches to evacuation should always be the starting point.

Best practice should be imbedded into the culture of an organisation in order to highlight the benefits that effective planning can have on both internal and external business reputation. It is also important to ensure that awareness of the evacuation procedures are widely communicated and understood.  

The future

A building, and the way it’s used, continues to change over time. Regular re-assessment of risk is necessary to make sure that robust emergency evacuation measures are in place and that they are fit for purpose, well-documented and supported by the relevant training and equipment. Planning in this way will ensure procedures meet the needs of all occupants within a building, regardless of their ability.

Evac+Chair is committed to saving lives by helping organisations to plan and prepare effectively for emergency evacuation so don’t hesitate to give us a call.  We also offer free site surveys to help plan for all eventualities and all building types.  

You can download our free white paper ‘The Changing Nature of Risk’ by clicking here.  

For more information visit our website or call us today.

0121 7066744

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