Given that the current threat level posed by international terrorism in the UK is currently set at ‘Severe’, it’s now time for every business owner to ensure they have comprehensive and up-to-date evacuation procedures in place, writes Gerard Wallace.
As stated in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, it’s no longer the responsibility of the Fire and Rescue Service to facilitate evacuation of non-domestic premises. Rather, this responsibility rests with the employer. As a result, company owners must ensure their buildings are well-prepared for evacuating everyone – employees, visitors, students or the mobility-impaired – both safely and efficiently.
Alongside coherent and wide-ranging evacuation procedures, trained team members who have undergone practical training in the operation of any evacuation equipment must be available to assist. As well as regular fire evacuation procedures, regular drills for the provision of mitigating security threats should be held to ensure all staff are familiar with those agreed procedures in place.
During a security threat episode, no matter what the circumstances may be, it can be difficult to stay calm and collected which is why pre-planning is essential in order to anticipate, identify and mitigate any problems with evacuation, and especially so for those who are mobility-impaired.
‘Run, Hide, Tell’
The Government offers specific recommendations during a terror threat: ‘Run, Hide, Tell’. However, not all individuals can escape from danger quickly so it’s the responsibility of the business owner – the nominated ‘Responsible Person’ – to ensure safe, fast and easy evacuation for all.
Under legislation, the ‘Responsible Person’ must develop a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan, otherwise known as a PEEP. The aim of these plans is to provide people who cannot exit a building unaided during an emergency with the necessary information to be able to manage their escape.
PEEPs are not just for those with physical disabilities. They’re for anyone who will need help during an evacuation including children, the elderly or the frail, anyone with a temporary condition or individuals who may not be able to use stairs, hear the fire alarm or move quickly (any or all of which might hinder their escape).
Well thought through PEEPs are important in making workplaces safe for everybody and demonstrate a company’s commitment to improving accessibility. During the pre-planning stage, that’s the time where difficult questions need to be answered to ensure everyone can evacuate a building safely during an emergency.
Questions to be addressed
Questions that the ‘Responsible Person’ must address in pre-planning are:
*Do we have an emergency evacuation plan?
*Have we considered everyone in our PEEP?
*Do we have the correct evacuation equipment which can ensure everyone’s safety?
*Do we have a trained incident response team?
*Do we have regular evacuation drills to check our procedures?
It’s a legal requirement for business owners to provide a means of escape for everybody using their buildings. All evacuation aids must be located in a designated refuge point.
Undoubtedly, evacuation chairs have proven to be the most efficient and user-friendly solution as they enable the operator and passenger to safely exit the building quickly and efficiently.
In addition to evacuation chairs, many types of evacuation products may be required such as slide sheets, rescue mats or stretchers in order to meet different requirements.
Gerard Wallace is Managing Director of Evac+Chair International