Emergency Planning for 2018
Written by Sam Rigby
As the landscape of our towns, cities, homes and workplaces changes we are seeing new emergency planning challenges faced by building/facility owners/managers, occupiers and employees. These challenges are being driven by:
- An increase of mixed-use developments seeing occupants live, work and play in the same building with some developments also including childcare, schools, retirement or aged care living alongside residential and commercial
- Congestion in our towns and cities reducing the availability of suitable assembly locations
- A change in the way we work with organisations moving towards flexible working arrangements and mobile workforce’s
- Expanding risk climate with a greater emphasis on personal threat, natural disasters and terror
To combat these challenges and provide best practice preparedness building/facility owners, managers and occupiers should make provisions to ensure emergency plans are site-specific and training for both occupants and Wardens is tailored for their facility.
Australian Standard AS 3745 ‘Planning for emergencies in facilities’ and the QLD Building Fire and Safety Regulation both serve as useful guides to support the development of emergency management plans. In accordance with AS 3745, an emergency plan is required to document the emergency response procedures for a facility and detail preparedness, prevention and response activities.
PLANNING FOR FORESEEABLE SCENARIOS
Although Australia has a strong workplace safety culture resulting in regular training and testing of emergency plans we also have a culture of ‘planning to run drills or exercises’ as opposed to ‘planning to manage an emergency situation’.
As we are seeing a change in risk exposure to our facilities we need to buck the tradition of developing emergency plans heavily focused on fire and evacuation to ensure we have plans and response teams ready to tackle the range of foreseeable emergency scenarios.
Building owners, occupiers and employers are seeing increase in the range of response procedures within their plans and as a result partial or lateral evacuation, evacuation to a neighbouring facility, shelter in place and lockdown are becoming more prevalent response options in Australia.
The Australian-New Zealand Counter-Terrorism Committee also introduced ‘Active Shooter Guidelines for Places of Mass Gathering’ in 2013, this guideline was replaced in 2017 with ‘Active Armed Offender Guidelines for Crowded Places’. This where appropriate should be considered alongside ‘Australia’s Strategy for Protecting Crowded Places from Terrorism’ for your facility.
PLANNING FOR YOUR FACILITY OR WORKPLACE
A facility’s emergency planning committee in association with facility owners, managers, occupiers and employers are responsible for deciding the types of emergencies to be included in the emergency plan and assessing the list annually.
While the risk exposure from facility to facility may not differ greatly, the way we inhabit each facility or tenancies within a facility can.
The increase of both mixed-use developments and flexible working arrangements means that building owners/facility managers need to ensure building emergency plans are flexible and consider:
- Size, complexity and features of the facility
- Location of the facility and surroundings
- Communication and security systems/arrangements
- Number and type of occupants and visitors
- Hours of occupancy
Occupiers and employers also need to ensure their own emergency plans align with the facilities plan whilst including tailored procedures and response structures to support their operational risks, hours of occupancy and staff working arrangements.
Given the change in the way buildings are inhabited all occupants should be trained and familiar with the emergency plan for their home/workplace/facility to reduce the dependency on emergency Wardens and achieve a best practice preparedness.
To combat emergency planning challenges in 2018 and provide best practice preparedness building/facility owners, managers and occupiers should ensure:
- Facility emergency plans and are site-specific
- Secondary occupier plans are tailored to the risks, staffing arrangements and operational hours of tenancies/workplaces
- Plan and prepare response teams to manage emergencies
- Occupants are trained and familiar with the emergency plan
- Emergency plans are reviewed annually
- Building Surveying
- Safety Measures
- Emergency Planning
- Work Health and Safety