Preparedness & Response Procedures Training:
By David L. Battle
No work place is immune to the threat of fire- yet, fire safety is often taken for granted. The importance of fire safety in the work place cannot be over emphasized.
When businesses and industries burn, tax dollars are lost, jobs are lost, and human potential is destroyed. State and/or local fire codes typically mandate some form of emergency and/or evacuation training.
The frequency and details of your state and/or local mandated training should be determined in order to ensure compliance. To ensure the safest conditions possible, employees should be familiar with their building’s emergency response procedures and evacuation plan. To assist you in meeting these standards, you may want to consider the following training formats and tips.
Main/Branch Location(s) Single Story Structures
Employees should be aware of all exits from the building and taught that in the event of an emergency, when evacuation is warranted, all employees should use the exit closest to them.
Main/Branch Location(s) 2 to 6 Floors
Employees should be aware of all floor and building exits. Each floor should be divided to ensure an equal number of employees are assigned for each stairwell and/or exit. Employees should be taught that when an evacuation is ordered, they should follow the instructions of members of the Emergency Reaction Team (EMT). Evacuation drills should be administered in order to familiarize employees with stairwells and building points of egress.
High Raise Buildings
As it takes more time to evacuate a high-raise building, employees should be prepared to evacuate internally to a refuge area three floors above of three floors below the emergency floor. However, if a total building evacuation is warranted, employees should adhere to the same rules as noted for low raise buildings. The taller and more complex structures have greater needs for evacuation drills.
Emergency Preparedness & Response Procedures Training
The aforementioned rules in no way constitute complete instructions for Emergency Preparedness & Response Procedures Training. Employees must be taught how to respond properly in the event of an emergency. The following is a guide that can be used to assist you in training your employees.
Purpose: The purpose of this training is three fold.
1. To make known the methods and practices that will ensure a safe, systematic, and orderly evacuation from any part of the building by the nearest safe means of exit in the least possible time.
2. To encourage the use of provided emergency devices as deemed necessary during an emergency for the safeguarding of human life and the protection of property, equipment, and assets.
3. To familiarize employees with procedures in order to effectively avoid the panic and irrational behavior associated with people caught in an emergency situation.
Buildings Accoutrements: To ensure a complete training program, it would be beneficial to explain the emergency safety features incorporated in the building’s design and/or structure (i.e. smoke/fire detection systems, sprinkler and other fire suppression systems, automated life-safety systems, etc.).
The Human Element: Despite all safeguards incorporated in a building’s structure, design, and provided emergency devices, one of the most important elements of any life-safety system is the building’s occupants. Employees are the human element, which ultimately determines personal safety.
It is important that all employees are well informed concerning emergency procedures and the role they and others play in the safe, systematic, and orderly response to the unfortunate eventuality of an emergency. For this cause, the building must adopt written procedures for emergency response.
Primary Procedures for Emergency Response
Response to an emergency should include primary procedures that are applicable in any emergency situation: fire, bomb threat, natural disaster, medical emergency, etc.
These primary procedures for emergency response are pretty basic. However, the importance i that they should be understood and followed by every employee in order to ensure a safe, systematic, and orderly response to an emergency. They are:
•Do not panic remain calm. Panic is one of the most contagious of all human emotions. Panic is defined as a “sudden, excessive, unreasoning, infectious terror.”
•Know Emergency Reaction Team Members (ERT).
•Listen carefully and follow instructions.
•Know location/operation of emergency devices. (i.e.: alarm activators, fire extinguisher, emergency exits, etc., if applicable)
•Know evacuation routes & assembly points.
At least 200 yards from an emergency site is required for an assembly point. Alternate assembly points should be available during inclement weather.
•Assist disabled individuals.
•Do not use elevators - use stairwells. Only the right side of the stairwell should be used. This allows the Fire Department and ERT members access to the emergency floor.
•If time and safety factors permit, store vital records and negotiable instruments.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics - U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “fire kills three times more people in America than hand guns.” The greatest cause of fire deaths is people caught unprepared, who run aimlessly through a burning, smoked filled and/or darkened building.
The following procedures should be followed if an employee discovers smoke and/or fire:
•Activate nearest fire alarm, if applicable.
•Notify manager, warden or security officer.
•Warden directs ERT members.
•Extinguish fire/source of fire. Most fires are controllable at first. An effort should be made to extinguish the fire within the first few seconds of discovery. If applicable, shut off electricity, gas or grease if source/fuel of fire.
•Evacuate floor/area as directed
Fire Safety Tips
•Close doors to confine and slow fire’s spread.
•Feel door before opening. Use the backside of hand to protect sense of touch to fingertips. You may be forced to crawl and feel your way out of a dark or smoke filled room or building.
•If caught in smoke - crawl. Take short breaths andbreathe through your nose.
•If clothes catch fire - stop, drop and roll.
Bomb Threat & Search Procedures
The possibility of two types of bombing scenarios exits - terrorist bombing and bomb threat.
Terrorist Bombing: Typically, no warning or advance notification is given. The bomber places an explosive or incendiary device; it explodes creating havoc and mayhem to everything in the area. Employees/occupants should be taught to report any suspicious situation and/or circumstances, no matter how insignificant they may seem. Management must respond to these reports by at least checking them out and possibly notifying law enforcement.
Bomb Threat: There are only two reasonable explanations for bomb threats.
1. The caller has definite knowledge that an explosive device has been placed and wants to minimize personal injury or property damage. The caller may be the person who placed the device or someone who has become aware of such information.
2. The caller wants to create an atmosphere of anxiety and panic which will, in turn, possibly result in a disruption of normal activity of the installation where the device has purportedly been placed. The caller may have a political, economical, or social agenda. An important consolation regarding bomb threats is, the vast majority are hoaxes. However, it is impossible to know immediately whether a bomb threat is real.
Note: “Bombing Incidents Reports” are available by writing to the U.S. Department of Justice, FBI Explosives Unit-Bomb Data Center, J. Edgar Hoover Bldg., Rm. 3918, 935 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20535-0001. This summary will give you the latest statistical information on bombings.
If a written threat is received:
•Save all materials.
•Immediately identify delivery source.
If a threat is received by telephone:
•Do not panic. The goal of the caller is to create panic.
•Utilize Bomb Threat Report Form. Information obtained by the call recipient helps determine the validity of a threat. In most hoax calls, the caller is vague, general and non-descriptive in his or her answers. Conversely, if the caller is specific and detailed in his or her answers, the chances are greater that the threat is real.
•Detain the caller as long as possible. If successful, the call can be traced and/or recorded. Try repeating questions at least twice.
•Do not upset caller. Show willingness to cooperate. Legitimate callers usually wish to avoid injury or death. Request more data by expressing a desire to save lives.
•Listen carefully. Note exact words spoken, sex of caller, approximate age, speech (i.e., accent, slang, impediment), behavior (calm, nervous, scared), background noises, etc.
•Alert a fellow employee. An alerted employee should notify Floor Warden, Security Officer or Senior Officer on the scene.
•Do not discuss with unauthorized individuals.
•Do not discuss with media.
Threat Evaluation: It is the responsibility of the Decision-Making Authorities to determine:
•Degree of validity Based on information received from the caller.
•Method of Response: Overt total response, or covert controlled response.
Search Procedures/Responsibilities: In most communities, the Police Department’s Bomb Disposal Unit or Army’s Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit will not search an occupied building for explosive or incendiary devices or may not be available. It is the building’s occupants responsibility to search. A search of the building is recommended only if time permits. If the caller states that the bomb is not set to go off for a while, a search of the building prior to evacuation may be warranted. If the caller states that the bomb is set to go off in a short while, immediate evacuation may be warranted.
•Emergency Reaction Team Members should supervise search of assigned floor/area.
•Supervisory/Office Personnel should search own floor/area.
•Maintenance Personnel should search shops, boiler rooms, etc.
•Security Personnel should search public areas.
•Locate and identify personal items. Bombs can be disguised to resemble personal items. By removing personal items first, you limit the number of suspect items.
•Pair up searcher. Upon entering a room/area, searchers should listen carefully for unusual noises that might resemble that of an explosive device (i.e., ticking, humming).
•Select height levels between the two searchers. First level: the floor to desk top. Second level: desk top to the ceiling. Likewise, searchers should move slowly around room/area looking for anything that does not belong. Searchers should never search above ceiling tiles. However, if ceiling tiles appear to have been disturbed it should be reported.
•Do not close doors/windows or disturb anything. Doors/windows should be left opened to minimize damage.
Anything that doesn’t belong, including brief case, lunch box, back pack, sewing box, thermos, camera case, etc.
Once suspect device is found: It is imperative that searchers are instructed that their mission is only to search for and report suspicious objects. The removal/disarming of a bomb must be left up to the professionals in explosive ordinance disposal.
•Do not touch suspect device.
•Notify law enforcement.
•Evacuate floor/area as directed.
•Listen carefully and follow instructions.
•Do not panic. Remain calm.
•Assist disabled individuals.
•Do not use elevators - use stairwells
•Walk rapidly. Do not run.
•Stay with group throughout evacuation.
•Remain at assembly point(s) until all clear signal has been given. Emergency Warden, Security Officer or Senior Officer on scene will conduct head count. Missing persons should be reported to Fire and/or Police Department.
Severe thunderstorm, tornado watch/warning and/or earthquake
•Evacuate perimeters where flying glass could be dangerous.
•Move to elevator lobbies and hallways around core. If possible, proceed to interior areas of basement or lower levels. For added protection, use coverage afforded by office furniture and/or equipment.
•Do not smoke or use lanterns, torches, etc. In damaged areas to avoid explosion.
•Avoid dangerous areas and/or obstacles: (i.e., electrical wires, partial walls, broken glass, etc.)
•Ensure the comfort of injured/ill person(s).
•Notify Security Officer or Senior Officer on scene.
•Notify local hospital/EMS service, if necessary.
Emergency Reaction Team (ERT)
The Emergency Reaction Team (ERT) is a group of employees who are assigned emergency and evacuation procedure responsibilities. The number and composition of ERT members should be determined by location, number of employees, size and configuration of building. Suggested positions and responsibilities for an ERT are as follows:
•Warden should direct, enforce and have full charge of evacuation of employees on assigned floor area during an emergency. Therefore, the Warden must be familiar with the location and operation of all safety devices/elements; number of employees and work space configuration for assigned floor/area; and proper procedures for response to emergencies.
•Deputy Warden(s) assist Warden(s) and ensure that all orders and instructions are being followed. In the event of an evacuation, Deputy Warden(s) ensures that Searchers and Exit Monitors are on duty.
•Male and female Searchers, in case of an evacuation, ensure that respective rest rooms have been emptied and that employees are ready to respond.
•Exit Monitors, in case of an evacuation, ensure that exits are open, traffic through exit moves in an orderly and smooth fashion and that exit doors are closed after evacuation.
David L. Battle is Security Training Specialist for his business David Battle Resources.
This article adapted from Vol. 10#1.
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