Emergency Planning For 2018
The landscape of our towns, cities, homes and workplaces is changing. As a result, we see new emergency planning challenges faced by building owners, facility managers, occupiers and employees.
Table of Contents
Arising emergency planning challenges
Several factors are driving emergency planning challenges.
- There is an increase in mixed-use developments seeing occupants live, work and play in the same building. Some developments include childcare, schools, retirement or aged care living alongside residential and commercial.
- Congestion in our towns and cities reduces the availability of suitable assembly locations.
- There’s a change in the way we work with organisations. We now move towards flexible working arrangements and mobile workforces.
- Our expanding risk climate emphasises personal threats, natural disasters and terrorism.
Building owners, managers and occupiers must combat these challenges and provide best practice preparedness. As a result, they should ensure that emergency plans are site-specific and that training for occupants and wardens is facility-specific.
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. Per AS 3745, an emergency plan must document the emergency response procedures for a facility and detail preparedness, prevention and response activities.
Planning for foreseeable scenarios
Australia has a strong workplace safety culture resulting in regular training and testing of emergency plans. However, we also have a culture of planning to run drills or exercises instead of planning to manage an emergency.
As we see a change in risk exposure to our facilities, we need to buck the tradition of developing emergency plans focused on fire and evacuation. Instead, we must ensure we have plans and response teams ready to tackle a range of foreseeable emergency scenarios.
Building owners, occupiers and employers are seeing an increase in the range of response procedures within their plan. 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 2010. However, the Committee replaced this guideline 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
In association with facility owners and managers, a facility’s emergency planning committee is responsible for deciding the types of emergencies covered in the emergency plan. The emergency planning committee is also responsible for assessing the list annually.
While the risk exposure from facility to facility may not differ greatly, how we inhabit each facility or tenancy within a facility can.
The increase in mixed-use developments and flexible working arrangements means building owners and facility managers must ensure that building emergency plans are flexible. They should 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 must also ensure their emergency plans align with the facility’s plan. Additionally, they must include 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 and facility. Familiarity with the emergency plan reduces dependency on emergency wardens. Additionally, it achieves best practice preparedness.
Combating emergency challenges in 2018
To combat emergency planning challenges in 2018 and provide best practice preparedness, facility owners, managers and occupiers should ensure:
- Facility emergency plans are site-specific.
- Secondary occupier plans are tailored to the risks, staffing arrangements and operational hours of tenancies/workplaces.
- There are plans and response teams in place to manage emergencies.
- Occupants are trained and familiar with the emergency plan.
- Emergency plans are reviewed annually.