Planning for Any Emergency
Being a Facility Manager for a premises of any type comes with a certain set of baseline responsibilities, including fire safety and emergency planning. Given that an FM should know the premises and building better than anyone else, it stands to reason that the FM will be the go-to person in an emergency, calling out orders and ensuring that everyone exits the premises alive and well.
What is emergency planning?
Emergency planning is the process of making arrangements to ensure occupant safety in the event of a disaster or calamity occurring at your facility. The primary goal of emergency planning is to prepare for and mitigate the impact emergencies may have on your occupants and assets. This includes identifying specific risks and possible emergencies which might take place; as well as outlining steps to take in response to hypothetical events. This will then lead to you planning for potential risks and having key members in key roles in order to respond to emergencies where necessary.
So what exactly is the FM’s role during an emergency?
The International Facility Management Association have produced a guide to emergency response. In summation, the FM’s role is as follows:
- The FM defines roles so that in the event of an emergency everybody is fully aware of what to do and what their job is.
- The FM defines functions which are ‘mission-critical’ and also assesses where vulnerabilities may lie.
- The FM creates the ‘preparedness plan’, and then communicates that plan with all levels of staff, management and occupancy.
- The FM runs practice scenarios to identify potential weaknesses in the plan.
- The FM will take into account any new or changed circumstances or equipment and update the emergency plans accordingly.
What does a good emergency plan look like?
A good emergency plan should always cover at least four issues:
- Identify which mission-critical systems must be kept running.
- Have a list of everyone who regularly uses the building.
- Have a full list of equipment and other property which needs to be moved out of the way during an emergency.
- Include a checklist for every single action that needs to be taken by the facilities team during the emergency.
These are systems which can run at an acceptable level of failure; without which the entire business shuts down. National and local codes address the minimum basic requirements for emergency power, water, HVAC, fire-protection, lighting, fuel storage and communications systems.
How can I be more prepared?
Fortunately, there is a lot of history and precedent for running a ‘tight ship’ in the FM sphere. Simple common sense also goes a long way; but being properly prepared is the gold standard. However, there are two tips that other FMs have often touched on.
1.Make plans for when you are away
For whatever reason (holidays, ad hoc business choices) there will come a time when your facility will go through shut down. Hiring temporary security over these periods is a good first step, especially if the shut down is unplanned. Get your third-party to do a full risk assessment at the same time, so that you can find potential weaknesses.
2.Conduct regular scenario-based exercises
Perhaps an obvious tip, this one could save you and your facility huge costs in the long run. Trial run your emergency plans often, and under all possible variables, so that any potential obstacles in a real emergency are already planned for.
What do I actually do in an emergency?
There are two things you will be responsible for doing, above all others:
There are legal codes available which detail the correct methodology and good practice. But evacuating personnel in a clear, orderly manner – easier said than done – is going to be your number one goal. The lives of personnel are of the utmost importance. Of course, if your emergency plan is efficient, this process should hopefully run smoothly. However, by this stage you will have run through multiple scenario-tests and everyone in the building will know what to do.
The advent of modern technology has thrown some serious loops into the tried-and-tested evacuation theory. These days, the first response to an emergency is for a person to pick up their mobile phone. As such, many businesses are using digital software to send out real time emergency notices or information. Unfortunately, this is not a perfect method, and does not account for all people.
As such, your role is to ensure that there are adequate communication methods; firstly to ensure that everyone in the facility is aware of the emergency; and secondly, that you are able to call for outside assistance where necessary, in terms of police, firefighters etc.
With that same advent of modern technology, however, have come some really great digital initiatives for health and safety in the workplace. One such example is ‘voice-sounders’.
Buildings are all equipped with alarms. But how is Bob Dennit in Accounts supposed to know the difference between a fire alarm, a security alarm or Pete Schafer in Sales’ new ringtone?
The voice sounder is a little audio speaker placed strategically around the building and grounds to direct evacuating traffic. These sounders will relay simple, calming messages which keep people moving. You have probably encountered similar devices at airports (“push your trolley now”) or at retail stores (“please proceed to counter 4”).
Either way, the market for automated fire systems is growing, and it seems likely that they will be implemented for emergency planning across the board in the next few decades.
Voltix Services Solutions
Voltix Services, as a full-service facilities maintenance provider, can help. Not only will Voltix Services analyse, repair and maintain your emergency systems; but we’ll carry out a full audit of your internal plans and systems to ensure that you are as safe as can be. More importantly, Voltix Services will ensure that you have maximised your emergency planning effectiveness and reduced the risk to health and safety as much as can reasonably be expected. Contact us today.