During any incident, the evacuation plan should have an established assembly area outside of the building. As people make their way outside, this is where floor wardens should begin to account for everyone who was in the building. The best way to do this is to first create rows in the assembly area by floor. If the facility contains a large number of occupants, several rows may be necessary to accommodate all the personnel on the floor. Separate the various floors with enough distance so people can distinguish which row or group of rows represents their floor. A simple cardboard sign placed on the ground with something to weigh it down can identify the floor number and reduce confusion. Once people are separated by floor, supervisors or representatives of a particular office can begin to account for their employees. This will be impossible if all facility occupants are left to simply gather at the assembly point because employees from the same companies will be scattered throughout the crowd of confused and frightened people.
By reducing the amount of time necessary to identify which employees are missing, rescue workers can prioritize their rescue effort. This reduces the time it takes to find trapped victims while greatly increasing the chances of their survival. Although it is no guarantee that everyone can be accounted for at the assembly area, the chances of saving lives greatly increases.
Once all the uninjured or slightly injured personnel have moved to the assembly area, it is important to establish a casualty-collection area. Although this area will be run by professional medical personnel and first responders, the location of the casualty-collection area should be identified when drawing up evacuation plans. This area should be large enough to hold at least 10 percent of the daily average number of building occupants. The location can be any open space around the building like a field or a parking lot. If a parking lot is used, there must be a plan in place to prevent unauthorized vehicles from entering the casualty area during an incident. Generally police officers will control access; however, coordinating with police during the planning phase will insure support for such tasks. Orange marker panels should be used for marking the casualty collection area during the day. At night, red chemlights or red strobe lights should be used to advertise the casualty area. Competent medical personnel will determine which victims have priority for transport. The sooner a casualty collection area is established, the faster critically injured personnel can be moved to a hospital.
A helicopter landing area should also be established and written into the evacuation plan. The best way to identify a suitable location for the helicopter landing area is to coordinate with the local air ambulance pilots. They can identify hazards and obstacles near the landing area that would endanger the aircraft or its ability to land. Once a suitable site has been established, the location should be determined using a global positioning system (GPS). The location should be recorded using the latitude and longitude coordinates, the most common type of coordinate.
Coordination regarding the marking of the helicopter landing site should also be discussed with the pilots. There should be a signal for day and one for night and this information can be passed to the air ambulance personnel. Keep in mind, the pilot who observes the location may not be the same pilot that comes to the crisis. Once again, first responders will establish the landing site should a crisis occur, but prior planning and coordination can greatly speed the process of aerial medical evacuation. And considering the high number of medical aircraft crashes in recent years, it’s a good idea to have an established landing site. A coordinated site, in which obstacles and hazards have been identified or removed, will greatly reduce the chance of an accident.
With a solid crisis management plan, a little training, and a minimal budget, security managers can greatly reduce the casualty rate when an act of God occurs or people snap violently. Security managers may be considered doomsayers, but a well planned crisis management plan with employee and first-responder buy-in can assure they won’t be modern-day Cassandras.
Will Gunther is a former military special operations member. He is currently a product design consultant and trainer for World Prep Inc firstname.lastname@example.org