Certain emergencies may warrant either complete or
partial evacuation of a facility. A complete evacuation involves
the removal of all occupants from the building, with the possible
exception of emergency team members. A partial evacuation may involve
either the relocation of occupants to unaffected areas or removal
from the building of only those occupants in affected areas. Note
that this phase deals only with the movement of people. In certain
situations, evacuation or relocation of building contents may be
The initial tasks for the planning team include determining
whether evacuation might be required for each type of emergency,
whether evacuation would need to be partial or complete and how
urgent the need to evacuate might be. These factors will need to
be considered together to determine the evacuation scenarios that
may arise for each emergency.
There may also be some situations where occupants
should not evacuate the building. Such instances should also be
identified at this time. In these instances, rather than identifying
the means of evacuation notification, the issue will be ensuring
notification of the order to remain in place. The following information
should be considered in determining instances which events should
- During and after an earthquake, the interior of a building
designed for seismic forces will typically be safer than the exterior;
- In a transportation or weather-related emergency, authorities
may request that occupants remain where they are - or that a staggered
departure be used - to avoid overloading available transportation
- During a civil disturbance in front of a building, doors may
be locked and all entry or egress activity may be prohibited.
Who Will Order the Evacuation?
The order to initiate evacuation may come from a variety of sources,
depending on the situation. For each situation where evacuation
may be necessary, the entities who have the authority to initiate
evacuation must be identified. In various situations, the decision
to evacuate can be made by a regulatory agency, the building emergency
team leader, or an individual member of the emergency team. Examples
- Local emergency management authorities may order evacuation
of areas where severe flooding is expected.
- The fire department may order evacuation of all floors above
the floor where a fire is not under control.
- Emergency team leaders may order evacuation after a bomb threat
- Floor wardens may order floor evacuations if conditions on
the floor deteriorate and communication is unavailable.
- Any individual discovering a fire should leave the area and
also tell other individuals nearby to evacuate. (Note: Other actions
may also be necessary, such as closing doors to fire areas, activating
any manual fire alarms, calling fire department, etc.)
When Will the Order Be Given?
The timing of the evacuation order should relate to the immediacy
of the threat. Some emergencies pose a threat so immediate that
evacuation or relocation must be ordered as soon as the situation
is detected. Other situations will warrant monitoring and a heightened
level of attention, so that if evacuation becomes necessary, it
can be expedited. Examples follow:
- A hazardous materials release may require immediate evacuation
of those people within the area of initial release and also of
those people occupying facilities downwind.
- A fire in a high-rise building may warrant immediate evacuation
of a specified number of floors to remove occupants at risk and
to clear areas needed for fire department operations.
- A fire in a high-rise building may warrant notification of
the incident to occupants on floors not affected by the incident
so they are made aware of the situation, are reassured that the
situation poses no immediate threat and will be ready to evacuate
should it become necessary.
In many cases, the decision to order an evacuation
will not be an easy one. The entity responsible for making the decision
will need to weigh the inconvenience to those evacuated against
the likelihood that the emergency could cause serious consequences.
In general, caution should be the guide. Any embarrassment to building
management (or local government) resulting from an evacuation in
which a potential threat did not escalate to a major incident will
be minor compared to the implications that may arise when evacuation
is not ordered and injuries and deaths result.
Who Will Supervise the Evacuation?
In almost all cases, evacuation procedures will be supervised by
a regulatory component, the building emergency team or a combination
of both. Where only one of these groups is involved, supervisory
procedures will be fairly simple. Examples:
- If shutdown of a portion of a building is ordered by management
due to a heating or cooling system failure, the building emergency
team will supervise evacuation.
- If a regional evacuation has been ordered, regulatory components
will supervise evacuation, including staging, evacuation routes
Situations where both regulatory components and the
building emergency team will be involved will require the most analysis.
Regulatory components should be able to determine what their roles
would be for various types of emergencies. It is important to identify
the capabilities and the limitations of each group so duplication
of effort, conflicts and gaps in supervision will not occur.
- Will the fire department utilize an in-place floor warden system
for evacuation, or will fire department personnel be dispatched
throughout the building?
- Can authorities provide personnel to assist in evacuation of
occupants with special needs (children, elderly, people with disabilities),
or will building personnel be expected to provide such assistance?
How Long Will the Evacuation
It is important to estimate of the amount of time needed for evacuation.
The time necessary will depend on a variety of factors:
- Number of people to be evacuated;
- Building configuration;
- Impact of incident on building, including evacuation routes;
- Number of people needing assistance.
The amount of time needed for evacuation may affect
other portions of the evacuation phase. For example, if the amount
of time needed for evacuation exceeds the time available prior to
the situation reaching a critical phase, options could include improving
detection or notification, or ordering evacuation earlier in the
A closely supervised evacuation will move more quickly
than an "every person for himself or herself" approach. Evacuation
in a high-rise building without close monitoring will take excessive
amounts of time. Certain exits may become overcrowded, which will
slow or stop egress, while other exits may be underutilized. Strategically
placed members of the emergency team can guide occupants to the
appropriate exits, control access into exit stairs to prevent overcrowding,
and adapt the evacuation procedures if needed due to changing conditions
resulting from the emergency.
The time required for evacuation will also depend
on whether a complete or partial evacuation or relocation is ordered.
Partial evacuation or relocation should only be considered when
one or more of the following conditions apply:
- The emergency poses no threat to other parts of the facility;
- Time is not available for complete evacuation; or
- Occupants in other areas will be able to evacuate later if
the incident grows in size.
How Will Evacuation Routes
The answers to this question should be found among the "building
components" that were identified in the initial phase of the planning
process. Any component that may serve to provide a safe and secure
evacuation route should be included here. Some examples of building
components that may affect evacuation routes include:
- Emergency lighting
- Smoke removal system
- Stair pressurization system
- Fire resistant walls and ceilings
- Smoke resistant walls and ceilings
- Auxiliary generator
Certain human components may also influence the effectiveness
of the evacuation routes. Emergency team members can ensure that
exit routes do not become obstructed by too many people leaving
Several additional key questions must also be considered
when developing an evacuation plan.
- Who will verify that evacuation is complete?
- Where is the evacuation location?
- How long will people need to remain in the evacuation area?
- What provisions will be needed at relocation areas?
- How will any occupants with special needs be accommodated?
- How will coordination and communication of ending the evacuation
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