Emergency Evacuation – Keeping You on Course

Jan 18, 2012

It’s often said that worse things happen at sea and this can be certainly said about the recent tragic event when the cruise ship Costa Concordia ran aground near to the coast of Tuscany.

From early indications it would appear that the Concordia hadn't yet conducted the emergency drill required by international maritime law which state that a mandatory drill must be conducted by the ship within 24 hours of departure. This ship had only departed from the port Civitavecchia a couple of hours previously and the drill wasn’t scheduled until the second day of the cruise.

Whether on land or sea, events such as this show the importance of conducting evacuation drills. It is essential to ensure that people can escape quickly from the workplace in the event of an emergency such as a fire.

In the event of an emergency, chaos and panic often occur if people are unfamiliar with their surrounding and emergency procedures are not put in place and practiced.

Employers should acquaint employees with the actions they should take in the event of an emergency, such as a fire.  Training should include;

  • What the alarm sounds like
  • What to do on discovery of a fire
  • How to raise the alarm and what happens upon hearing the alarm
  • The procedures for alerting members of the public and visitors and where appropriate, directing them to safe routes or final exits
  • The arrangements for calling fire, rescue and emergency services
  • How to open emergency exit doors and the location of escape routes
  • The importance of keeping fire doors closed
  • The safe use and risks from working with or storing highly flammable or explosive substances
  • If appropriate, how to stop and isolate machinery
  • Safe use of lifts and the evacuation of people with disabilities
  • The importance of good housekeeping

Assembly points should be established for use in the event of an evacuation, and should preferably be in a place that is unlikely to be affected at the time of fire and under cover.

In smaller premises a list of names of all employees should be maintained so that a roll call can be made if evacuation becomes necessary

The most effective way of testing your emergency evacuation plans is to conduct evacuation drills at least twice a year. The evacuation drill frequency and timing should also take into account shift workers, part time workers and any areas and processes that are more hazardous.

Fire alarm systems should be checked weekly, this can be carried out by activating a different call point each week in sequence at a fixed time, you should check that the alarm is clearly audible in all areas and log your weekly check.

Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, a responsible person must carry out a Risk Assessment, produce a fire policy and related procedures, provide equipment, training, carry out fire drills, keep records and inform employees which action is to be taken in the event of a fire emergency. Further information regarding conducting a fire risk assessment and Appointing Responsibilities is available on the website.

Whether authorised or not the captain can go off course, but can you really afford to run the risk in your business?

For further advice and support to keep you on course, contact the advice line