High-rise buildings have gained significant awareness and challenges in the fire safety world over the years. The several floors of a high-rise building require several people to travel long distances by stairs in order to evacuate a building. The types of buildings involved can either be residential (apartments, dormitories or other multi-family housing), office buildings, hotels, or commercial (offices, service centers, and others) buildings. By practicing hazard (natural, human-caused, and technology-caused) preparedness, we can improve the likelihood that building occupants remain safe during disasters such as fires and other crises.
ServiceMaster by PWF, an expert and trusted company with 30 plus years of industry experience in disaster restoration services, is here to give an informative article on how to evacuate on a high-rise building. In view of the topic’s wide coverage, this article is limited to the emergency evacuation plan only.
What is an emergency evacuation plan?
An emergency evacuation plan involves the urgent departure or escape of people away from an area that contains an imminent threat, an ongoing threat, or a hazard to life or property. Evacuations range from the small-scale evacuation of a building due to a storm or fire to flood, or an approaching weather disaster.
Depending on the type of hazard, the time to evacuate is a big factor. For weather conditions, such as a hurricane, you might have a day or two to get prepared. However, most disasters occur surprisingly, allowing no time for people to gather their personal belongings, which is why thinking ahead and always being ready is essential.
What to do during an emergency evacuation
Step 1: Evaluate the Situation
Make an assessment of the situation before making an evacuation. Focus is the key. Do not panic. Confirming the situation is called for, and would help you compose your plan if necessary to best cope with the circumstances.
For instance, if there is a bomb threat or an armed shooter spotted in the building, wait for instructions from authorities such as the police or fire department regarding what to do next before making your evacuation.
Another is a fire situation. Say the fire alarm has been activated, and the firefighters advised the building residents to move to the east block of the building. In that way, you can evacuate as instructed in a safe direction and not depending on what you observe the others are doing.
Step 2: Make an Evacuation Route Plan
Beforehand, if you are a new resident in a building, or you just moved in a new office, it is advisable to speak and check with the building management for all the available information with regards to evacuation protocols and safety procedures; in that way, you are prepared for a worst-case scenario. However, if the building administrator has none, office buildings, hotels, restaurants, and other commercial spaces often have evacuation maps found on lobbies and staircases. Use the evacuation maps in formulating your route plan.
Step 3: Select a Safe Escape Route
Try to identify and select the least risky route. Study and analyze the building plans or maps to assist people to find their nearest exits, and make an evacuation plan that would take you and them quickly and safely.
Avoid risky parts of the building like elevators, as these could possibly fail and risk the lives of the people. If possible, use the staircases.
Try to help other people by guiding them to the exits of the building. Advise them to avoid potential hazard areas such as areas with large windows and kitchens. These pose a risk; the windows may blow out and cause unsafe risk due to broken glasses. For kitchens, lines inside the kitchen such as gas lines can break anytime and there’s the risk of being blown up.
Step 4: Proceed with Caution to an Exit
Once you know your evacuation path, proceed carefully and quickly to your nearest exit. Do not worry about gathering your personal belongings that are not within your reach. It is dangerous to go back to your room and pack your bag once an evacuation has started. If possible, make your way out through your nearest clearly marked exit sign. If the exit door is not accessible, try to find other openings or ways out of the building like windows. For people with disabilities, call 911 and report your location, and wait for an emergency personnel’s assistance.
Step 5: Keep Some Distance
Once you are out in the open, make sure to put some distance between you and the building. Usually, emergency personnel set up a “do not cross the line” or “police line do not cross” signage to indicate a safe and secured distance. Most likely, people will forget the evacuation plan protocols after getting out of the building, when there are designated meeting places or areas to meet with others.
Consider also the different types of emergencies, like an electrical problem in the building which requires less space, and most importantly, understand how much space you need based on the reason of evacuation.
Step 6: Report to Responders
After making a safe distance from the building, check-in with emergency responders to let them know you’re safe and wait for further instructions on what to do next. Make time to call someone and let them know if you are injured or totally safe from harm. If the authorities are still not present, call 911 and report the incident; if possible, warn them of potential threats and wait for further instructions.
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