Accounting for all employees after an evacuation can be difficult if they aren’t all gathered in one place. For that reason, designated assembly areas are an essential part of every evacuation plan. These areas are often referred to “areas of refuge” and can be located inside or outside of the building depending on the type of emergency situation.
Typically, designated assembly areas are located in parking lots and other generally open spaces that are well away from heavy traffic if possible. Other good tips to know when choosing an evacuation assembly area include making sure it is an appropriate distance from where emergency personnel will be, as well as placing the area upwind from the building for an added safety net concerning fires and chemical spills.
When choosing an evacuation assembly area, the employer must keep in mind the following elements:
- Accessibility and distance from the building is important because it can’t be too far away to inhibit employees from reaching the area, but not so close to still be in the danger zone. This also helps with preventing employees from getting lost while on their way to the evacuation assembly area.
- Safety of the evacuation route refers to not only the assembly area, but also the path that leads to it. Employers must make sure there is a clear and accessible pathway to the area of refuge. Ensuring there is enough exits and evacuation routs for the number of employees is also well within the safety aspect of this process.
- The amount of space the assembly area has is critical to consider as this is where headcounts will be taken and medical aid to be administered by emergency personnel if needed. If there isn’t enough space for all employees, then accounting for everyone will be much more difficult and time consuming. This becomes a problem when search and rescue operations are needed as wasted time can lead to more casualties and serious injuries.
- A backup assembly area is always important to consider in case the first option has been deemed unsafe due to the nature of the emergency, or if that specific emergency evacuation route has been blocked off.
Overall, the importance of a secure evacuation assembly area determines the level of safety for employees after the initial evacuation. Without a sufficient one, employees may end up becoming injured or even getting in the way of emergency personnel.
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