It’s very important to have evacuation procedures in place in the event a fire occurs in the workplace or office building. Disorganized evacuations may result in injuries, property damage, and confusion, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA). No matter what type of building you work in, there are specific evacuation procedures to follow.

Routes and Exits

Offices and buildings should have designated evacuation maps and routes. They need to indicate all exit locations, group assembly points, and safety equipment, such as first aid kits and fire extinguishers. The exit routes should be well lit and clearly marked, as well as wide enough to accommodate large groups of evacuating personnel. These routes need to be unobstructed and clear of objects at all times, and there should be more than one way out of the building. The areas should also have protections, such as handrails on stairway exit routes, that will prevent your employees from other hazards. Many management teams practice fire drills so employees know where to exit and gather if a fire happens.

Critical Personnel

If a fire does occur, the majority of your employees should be instructed to evacuate the building immediately. Some companies designate critical personnel to shut down equipment that may be damaged if it is left in operation or that may present a hazard for emergency workers. Employers must review their needs before deciding if this type of activity is necessary in the event of a fire. If it is determined a necessary procedure, the critical employees must be trained to follow specific shutting-down procedures, as well as how to recognize when to abandon the procedures and evacuate. Most small offices do not need employees to stay behind to shut down systems. Emergency response personnel are trained to shut down utilities, including gas and electricity.

Special Needs Personnel and Visitors

Most fire evacuation procedures account for potential visitors in the building, as well as employees with disabilities or who do not speak English. In these cases, many employers designate specific employees (or fire wardens) to help during the evacuation. For example, a fire warden may be responsible for checking bathrooms, conference rooms, and offices to ensure all employees are evacuated before leaving the building himself. The office fire wardens should receive additional training that will help them assist others if evacuation routes are blocked or hindered, as well as help those who cannot move quickly. Another responsibility includes checking the visitor sign-in sheet to ensure everyone is accounted for at the assembly point.

Assembly Point

All office personnel should gather at the external gathering point after evacuation. Examples of these types of areas include parking lots and outdoor lobby areas. Conduct head counts and utilize a buddy system to ensure everyone is accounted for. If anyone is missing, immediately notify the emergency official in charge of operations.