4 Emergency Evacuation Tips for Natural Disasters

Whether it’s personal or public, everyone needs to have an emergency evacuation plan in case of natural disasters.  When it comes to public evacuations of businesses, schools, or correctional facilities, different critical procedures must be considered. During Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, it’s safe to say that there were some things that could have been avoided had there been more deliberate planning. Schools, businesses, health care facilities, and jail evacuations could have been much smoother, resulted in fewer fatalities, less chaos, less criticism and less litigation had some better pre-planning occurred.  During Katrina, it was reported that 517 inmates were unaccounted for at one prison facility alone. The danger, lives lost, disparaged press, and public scrutiny could be enough reason for anyone to consider improving their evacuation procedures. For some, it might their first time implementing any procedures at all.  With strategic planning, proper training, and the right technology, safety procedural breakdown and PR failures could be avoided in the face of a natural disaster.  Let these 4 tips guide your preparation efforts.

1.      Include and Identify Emergency Exits

All personnel, visitors, students, employees, and detainees should be aware of the exits on the premises. They should be easily identifiable and readily accessible in an emergency. Engage your local fire department to make recommendations and inspect your emergency exits to ensure compliancy with regulations. Every occupant in the building should be made fully aware of their escape options and routes.

2.      Be Aware of Any “Unnatural” Hazards

Your emergency plan should consider the potential for hazardous materials spills, plane crashes, train derailments, or any type of hazards that aren’t considered “natural.” Local emergency managers and the American Red Cross can help you determine the risks in your area. These types of disasters can’t be predicted and the urgency to take immediate action could make for unsafe evacuations. Do your research, and be prepared.

3.      Who are the Emergency Leaders?

When an emergency arises, there should already be designated leaders, who are well versed in their role and whom others know to rely on. Just like passengers that sit in an exit row on an airplane are expected to assist during an evacuation, ensure that your delegates are fully aware of their responsibilities and that others know where to look for help.

4.      Track Everyone

In a large building or facility, where many visitors, students, guests, or employees are present, how does one know exactly who’s in the building, much less their location?  Maintaining an accurate record of those entering and leaving the building could save lives, prevent injury, deter bad press, and thwart legal proceedings. RFID Tracking, or Radio Frequency Identification, is just one the proposed ways to automate the tracking of  visitors, employees and even jail inmates, potentially saving lives and valuable time spent locating those unaccounted for.  Such a technology would require ‘badges’ or ‘tags’ to be worn by those entering the building, which would transmit their location and that information would be collected and reported via a software application.  Automation of this process allows first responders to save valuable time in locating individuals, and thus, save lives. Carefully consider how your facility handles the whereabouts of its occupants as you prepare your emergency evacuation plans.

 In a natural disaster, lives, money, and/or your company’s reputation could be at stake. When all is said and done, you want to ensure you did everything within your power to execute as seamless, thorough and safe of an evacuation as possible. Others lives are in your hands.


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