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Risk Matters - April 2018

13 March 2018

Events that have taken place over the last 12 months have once again highlighted the importance of having well defined evacuation and shelter plans in place, according to IIRSM.

THE REALISATION of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the Manchester Arena and Borough Markets attacks, has reminded us of the importance of having mature, rehearsed arrangements in place, that are cognisant of the risks and threat faced today. 

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 places a statutory requirement to provide a minimum fire safety standard in all non-domestic premises. Responsible persons are required to ensure fire safety precautions are satisfactory, regardless of whether the premises are location is high rise (domestic and business), shopping precincts, hospitals, transport hubs (aviation, seaport and rail) or event venues (temporary or fixed).

The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 places a statutory duty upon public sector bodies (eg emergency services and local authorities) to plan, prepare, respond to and recover from a wide range of incidents and emergencies.  Part of those preparations will involve the development of suitable evacuation or shelter arrangements, involving:

  • A risk, hazard and threat assessment;
  • Appropriate warning mechanisms in place;
  • ‘Fit for purpose’ plans and supporting arrangements;
  • Training and rehearsing staff; and
  • Communicating the arrangements effectively

Evacuation and shelter can be broadly divided into two key areas, hasty and deliberate, with the latter being planned, controlled, rehearsed and resourced, utilising the principles of horizontal, zonal and vertical evacuation, upwards and downwards, depending upon the identified or perceived threat at the time. For larger sheltering activities, extensive pre-planning will need to consider:

  • How many are you moving?
  • Where are you going to put them and for how long?
  • How will you get them there?
  • How are you going to support them? And 
  • What is your exit strategy?

A ‘hasty’ evacuation is likely to be chaotic, with people acting upon instinct with the immediate resources to hand and potentially without emergency responders for a short period of time. As seen in Borough Market, premises may take uncoordinated action, barricading entry points to prevent access to those with malicious intent. As with evacuation, ‘hasty shelter’ or ‘lockdown’ arrangements can be developed during peacetime. It is recommended that discussions are held with staff, familiarisation of surroundings, items that could be used to barricade quickly are identified, to at least give them a fighting chance. Formal lockdown plans should also be compiled, communicated and rehearsed. Adopting the attitude that is not required and will never happen, could be catastrophic.  

One scenario that can lead to a ‘hasty’ evacuation or shelter posture, is the Marauding Terrorist Attack (MTA), whereby all those evacuating will be expected to apply the NACTSO recommended actions of 'Run, Hide, Tell'. There is an assumption that this is well known, though in reality, people will simply run to where they think they will be safest. 'Response Primacy' will be the responsibility of the Police, who will seek to neutralise the offenders, directly supported by the other by the other Emergency Services. 

While there is a natural desire to allow the Police to conduct their duties fully, Responsible Persons will also have a role to play focusing upon a 'duty of care' to employees and must where possible, consider the concurrent and subsequent actions that need to be taken to identify where staff are and their respective conditions. This should be written in plans and supporting arrangements. 

It is the legal and moral responsibility of organisations to consider ‘hasty’ as well as ‘deliberate’ evacuation and shelter planning is considered and developed accordingly to improve survivability and incident withstand.

We would like to thank Steve Corrigan MBE of C4 Resilience Ltd for his input. Having developed evacuation plans for two UK cities, evacuation training and exercises for key locations, as well as authoring papers for the Cabinet Office, he is a true expert in the field. 

You can read more from IIRSM and find out about our training and events, including the fire risk workshops planned for 2018, by visiting www.iirsm.org