I recently met with a client to review our post orders which were due for an upgrade. Post orders are the basic duties the security guard company must perform on a daily basis to maintain the desired level of security. My client just happened to mention to me that he had scheduled an emergency evacuation drill, but had not included security in the planning or the drill.
I maintained my composure and very tactfully pointed out to my wayward client the error of his ways while impressing upon him the importance of including the security force in all facets of the safety of his employees and the general public. After all, his is not a small operation.
A subsequent decision was made to have a security management presence during the entire evacuation drill, so we can video the procedure, evaluate it and possibly use it as an instruction tool.
The episode intrigued me given that the client in question follows the rules governing evacuations religiously as they are set down in OSHA’s guidelines for an Emergency Action Plan. After reviewing OSHA’s guidelines I can only imagine how many other corporate and agency heads might be inadvertently excluding security personnel from their EAPs. You see, security was not mentioned by title in any of the guidelines referencing personnel to be included in the planning or execution of the EAP. Absent that slight oversight, the guidelines are fairly thorough. The problem is some people take the guidelines literally.
This should remind us that oftentimes it’s the littlest things that make the biggest difference. Little things such as taking it for granted that my client or your supervisor is going to think of everything when it comes to security. Is your security staff fully briefed on your evacuation plan and do you practice it? I mean not just on paper, but do your employees physically leave the building and assemble at their assigned areas so everyone can be accounted for by their team leaders? Is the building cleared within the allotted time? Evacuation drills might seem like a waste of time that take away from productivity, but it only seems that way.
While we’re at it, is your security staff adequately trained on the simple things that one might think they will never need to put into play? OSHA guidelines also emphasize that EAP training include the operation of all equipment, alarms and other devices that might be engaged during an emergency. Make sure your security staff is trained and drilled periodically in CPR, first aid, the use of defibrillators or AEDs, fire extinguishers, and other emergency equipment. Your security staff are your real first responders and they should be prepared to deal with everything from gas leaks to possible bomb threats until the police, fire or EMTs arrive.
Another thing, there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all when it comes to EAPs. You cannot get an evacuation plan off the rack. OSHA guidelines suggest that evacuation plans be site specific and as simple to understand as you can make them. The last thing you want is confusion during an emergency evacuation. This means that evacuation routes should be designated and easy to navigate. Remember you will likely be evacuating visitors who are unfamiliar with the building’s floor plan, people who may not speak the language well and individuals with special needs.
And while OSHA correctly suggests that the best EAPs include employees in the planning process, I will go a step further and specify that not only should security be included in the planning process, but if you have in-house security, your security chief should be put in a position of authority to lead the plan and that your uniformed security force be tasked with its execution. Security can work with floor monitors to make sure each floor is clear and report this information to police and fire departments when they arrive. Uniformed security personnel are easier to keep in sight in a crowd. Security can also set up perimeters to make sure no one re-enters the premises prematurely. This can all be accomplished in your post orders. It doesn’t matter if it’s in-house security or contract security, the aim and the results will be the same.
Many of the things I have shared with you and more can be found at www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/evacuation/implementation.html.
A good EAP is not rocket science, but it should include input from your security professionals. Once established your EAP should be practiced and updated repeatedly. Treat it like shampooing your hair –Plan. Practice. Repeat.
We’ll see you next time.