This week’s Safetip is about emergency planning and preparedness, and specifically about evacuation routes.
Test Emergency Evacuation Routes to Identify Problems
Many organizations face the risk of a fire, chemical release, or a similar disaster on a daily basis. During such events, workers need to evacuate the premises quickly through emergency evacuation routes. An article from BLR highlights the importance of giving these routes a test run by walking each route, observing how it looks on a day-to-day basis and evaluating what may obstruct evacuation along the route. To help you identify common escape-route problems, BLR created a checklist that you can use.
Four Items to Check Regarding Emergency Evacuation Routes
The BLR checklist includes four main categories to check:
- Is the route clearly marked?
- Is the route marked all along its length? It’s not enough to mark only the exits.
- The following can help workers easily find the route in the dark or smoke: Reflective paint on stairs, railings, and stairwell doors; bright arrows to guide people along corridors to exits; and battery-operated emergency lighting.
- Markings and lighting at floor level help workers find the route if they’re crawling to avoid accumulating smoke.
- Are dead ends clearly indicated?
- Any route that could be mistaken for an exit should be clearly marked “Not an Exit”. Physical barriers should be used when possible to reinforce this information.
- To avoid dead ends, many buildings place their basement stairwells separately from the stairwells leading to upper floors, or place gates and other barriers across basement stairwells.
- Could the route be blocked?
- Is there equipment like forklifts or other mobile equipment that, if stopped in place during an emergency, could cause evacuation problems?
- Do workers routinely store materials where they could obstruct exit routes?
- Could workers find themselves trapped against a locked door?
- Is the route itself safe?
- An emergency exit route should not go through or pass close to areas that could become hazardous in a fire or emergency, like tank farms or chemical storage areas.
Finally, since workplaces can change, be sure to go through the checklist regularly as part of safety inspections. The checklist should be part of any procedural documents used to conduct regularly-scheduled safety inspections.
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