Evacuation and re-entry are important parts of keeping organizations prepared for disasters. It can be the different between a long drawn out process leaving everyone confused, or quicker one which would allow more time to work. Being prepared and taking time in advance can save organizations time and money in the long run.
For example, when there is a gas leak within a building what steps are people immediately going to do?
· Evacuate the building,
· meet up in the designated location, and
· wait until told to can re-enter the building.
The evacuation part is easy: just pack up and go. The re-entry is more complex, because there are several questions to be answered such as:
· is the hazard gone?
· is it safe to enter?
· is everyone still here or did they go home?
Those questions if not answered can impact business operations. A gas leak can be a minor incident, like a small fender bender blocking roads, but what about larger and more devastating gas leaks that cause explosions or other more serious disaster.
What happens when a larger incident occurs that requires people to stay away for an extended period? For example, a hurricane rips through a town damaging businesses. The building is unsafe to enter; however, once the storm clears, most employees are unsure if they are supposed to return to work. How are these employees going to be informed with up to date information? Without a plan set in place, some options may be trying to contact people on social media or going door to door if that information is even available. Those plans may not make it very far because not everyone is up-to-date with social media, be time consuming, or be considered unprofessional.
Planning is the way to smoothly and quickly recover from a disaster. When a disaster strikes, that is not the time to try and figure out what to do. Those questions should be answered well in advance to limit confusion during an already hectic and potentially dangerous time. There should be some procedure in place to notify all employees with updates and information to keep them in the loop. Organizations have already taken a massive blow that may take some time to recover from, the last thing that owners need to do is worry about if their employees are going to show up to work when repairs are made. Notifying them that the damage done will take three weeks to repair, and giving updates when they arise will keep the employees up-to-date on the situation rather than feeling they are forgotten.
Understanding the hazards within the local area and the impact they could have is a great starting point when creating any type of plan. Also consider how employees and customers receive information, this will make everyone’s life just a little bit easier. Evacuation is the easy part, just pack up the important things and get out of the area. Re-entry is on another level, knowing when it is safe to enter the building, coordinating when employees show back up, and starting up work operations, that is entirely different.
By SrA Kendall Herbert, Emergency Management, Operations Section, USAF