What to Do During a Building Evacuation
You’re sitting in your apartment when all of a sudden, the hallway fills with noise. The smoke alarms are blaring and flashing. An announcement goes over the PA system telling you that there is a fire in the building. The announcer tells you to leave your apartment and evacuate the building as soon as possible.
You’re panicking. What do you do?
You don’t want to freeze in a dangerous scenario like this. You want to be able to react quickly and evacuate the building safely. Read this to find out exactly what you should do during an emergency evacuation and why using an Evacuscape chair can help you with this process.
Assess the Situation
Before you do anything, take a moment to assess the situation. Why do you need to evacuate the building? Is there a fire? A gas leak? A flood? A threat of violence? Determining the reason for the evacuation could help you figure out what to do next.
For instance, knowing that there’s a fire will help you figure out that you should keep your eye out for fire, smoke and falling debris. You may need to take precautions like crawling low on the floor to minimize smoke inhalation or checking door handles to see if they’re hot — this is a sign that there’s an active fire behind the barrier.
Follow the Evacuation Plan
After assessing the situation, you should follow your building’s evacuation plan. A clear evacuation plan is an essential step in preparing for an evacuation — this is true for high-rise buildings and single-family homes. Occupants should recognize the plan from previous practice drills. The plans should include details like where all of the emergency exits are, how they are marked and where occupants should meet after evacuating.
If you forget the evacuation plan, look for a doorway that leads to the main stairwell or a fire escape. These should be clearly marked. Once you’ve made your way to the ground level, you can look for other occupants and find the meeting spot.
Avoid Risky Areas
Avoid areas of the building that will pose more dangers during your evacuation, like rooms with a lot of windows. In certain emergencies (fires, storms, explosions, etc.), window glass can shatter. You don’t want to be nearby when the glass breaks.
Using elevators and stairlifts can also be risky during emergencies. If the power goes out, the elevator or lift could stop working, leaving you stuck in a very vulnerable position.
Help Vulnerable People
Some occupants won’t be able to take the main stairwells or fire escapes on their own. Elderly people, people with disabilities, people with injuries and heavily pregnant women are just some occupants that will struggle to take these evacuation routes.
What can you do to help them? You can use a building evacuation chair to guide them down these evacuation routes quickly and safely. You can grab the chair and bring it over to a person in need. After they sit in the solid, padded seat, secure them with the safety straps. Then, you can evacuate the building together.
Building evacuation plans should assign helpers to its most vulnerable residents, especially ones who will need these evacuation chairs. The helper could be a family member, a neighbour or a staff member. Assigning someone to this important role means that there will be no hesitation or confusion when an emergency strikes.
A building evacuation chair is useful for different emergencies and types of evacuation. If you think you might need one in any of these scenarios, talk to your building’s management. They should respond by placing these rescue tools in the stairwells.
Try your best to remain calm as you evacuate the building. Do not push, shove or try to force your way in front of other occupants trying to make their way to exits. This can cause unnecessary injuries and block important exits, making it difficult for everyone to leave the building.
Do your best to stay calm and compassionate through the emergency.
Go to the Meeting Spot
Every evacuation plan should include a meeting spot that’s a safe distance away from the building. Occupants can gather at this meeting spot after they’ve evacuated. Why is this important? Management can do a headcount of the occupants to determine if anyone is missing and potentially still inside the building. It will also be easier for first responders to find and attend to the group.
Call for Help
Once you are in a safe meeting spot, you can call first responders, like firefighters and EMS. Why should you wait? Your first goal in an emergency is to get yourself out of immediate harm. Stopping to make an important phone call will distract you from that goal and keep you in harm’s way for longer than necessary.
It’s also possible that the authorities are already aware of the incident. They could’ve been informed by the building’s management, another resident or even a bystander. Remember that many wall-mounted fire pull systems will automatically signal the local fire department that there is an issue. If someone pulled it, emergency services have already been alerted that they’re needed on the scene.
Once first responders arrive, inform them whether you know someone is missing from the headcount. You should also let them know whether you’ve sustained any injuries that need addressing. Something as simple as smoke inhalation can be life-threatening without the proper medical attention.
The only time that you should call for help while you’re still inside the building is when you’re stuck and can’t evacuate on your own. In that case, call the authorities and let them know your exact location. The authorities may also give you advice on how to stay safe until they arrive.
Knowing what to do in an emergency is half the battle. Now, if you’re ever in a situation where you need to evacuate a building, you’ll know exactly what steps you can take to get out quickly and safely.