Planning an Effective Evacuation Procedure

Monday, February 9, 2015

Fire. Bomb threat. Serious storm. If your employees were faced with one of these situations, would they know what to do? Knowledge and confidence are critical for employees to escape your building safely. There are two steps for a good evacuation program: planning and practice. The following is a checklist for planning an effective evacuation procedure.

  • Consider the specific needs of your building and your occupants. Make the plan clear and concise.
  • Review the plan and walk through the exit procedures to make sure that everyone knows what to do. Modify the plan as the work environment changes.
  • Have a regular maintenance schedule for fire alarms or other communication systems used to trigger evacuation.
  • Post exit diagrams (plans) in each building and on each floor.
  • Post emergency phone numbers near every phone.
  • Always use the stairways to exit multistory buildings. Never use an elevator. Do not allow stairwells to be used for storage.
  • Require everyone to recognize and respond immediately to the sound of the fire alarm. Immediate response is vital for a quick, orderly evacuation.
  • Consider people with special needs or disabilities.
  • Plan for two exits out of every area in case the primary exit is blocked by smoke or fire.
  • Select a safe meeting place outside.
  • Designate certain employees with the responsibility of accounting for all employees following an evacuation.
  • Train employees on your evacuation plan, safe procedures and the location of the alarm and fire extinguishers.

Practice Makes Perfect

After planning, practice periodically throughout the year to make sure everyone knows what to do. Remember, the element of surprise adds essential realism to evacuation drills; however, to reduce the heightened amount of stress employees are feeling following recent terrorist attacks, you may want to make upcoming drills announced. The following is a checklist for conducting evacuation drills:


  • Coordinate arrangements for drills with the local fire department.
  • Appoint someone to monitor the drill. This person will sound the alarm and measure how long complete evacuation takes. To practice the second way out, the monitor holds up signs reading “smoke” or “exit blocked by fire.”
  • Take a head count at the designated meeting place(s) to account for everyone’s participation and a safe evacuation.
  • After the drill, gather everyone together to discuss any questions or problems that occurred.