Guidance for Emergency Evacuations Amid COVID-19
tenants and employees return to commercial sites for work. Building owners and
managers are implementing new office procedures and protocols to promote social
distancing and exposure prevention for the “new normal”. Now is an important
time for property management professionals to consider how to handle emergency
situations for maximum preparedness to their tenants and building sites.
Here are a few best practices to consider from the BOMA International – New Guidance Document: Emergency Evacuations Amid COVID-19. During this critical period it is imperative to evaluate and update your current evacuation procedures.
Tips to Consider for
Train, Adapt, Train
Remember that everybody is a new to this situation. No matter how long you’ve
been in the business, you’ve never dealt with recovering from a pandemic that
impacted the entire country. We are all going to be learning new things,
assessing the situation, and adjusting our response accordingly.
is vital that frontline employees be given regular and helpful updates. Keep it
simple when possible, focusing on what procedures or protocols remain the same,
and which have changed.
Know Your Neighbors. Now is the time to
get to know the property managers and security directors at the buildings next
door and across the street. These informal networks can prove extremely
valuable in the event of a secondary incident, and may building valuable
long-term relationships with fellow professionals.
the fire alarm sounds at your site in the middle of a thunderstorm. Where are
your going to evacuate your already nervous tenants? Having a neighboring
building willing to offer their lobby as a temporary shelter and emergency
assembly location could be priceless. Start the conversation.
Build That Stockpile. As the supply chain
gets back on track, it allows us to begin rebuilding a stockpile of emergency
supplies for your teams. This may include items such as bottled water, gloves,
masks, or hand sanitizer. Slowly adding materials to internal stockpiles at
your buildings will make you better prepared for any future incidents.
Distancing Under Duress. Remember that under
best practices for coronavirus, social distancing is key. During a secondary
crisis or emergency such as fire or flooding, it will be extremely difficult to
maintain physical distance between building tenants and staff as they move away
from a given threat.
security and building personnel will be tasked with doing their best to
re-establish order and assist this diverse population with dealing with two
separate – and sometimes contradictory – hazards. Once tenants, guests, and
staff are in a safer location, they will need to maintain six feet of
separation whenever possible. This may require an area of shelter that is
larger than might have been needed previously.
Call For Help. Even during such
incidents, frontline employees must remember that they are not “on an island.”
They should of course call 911 for assistance from first responders when
Evacuation Drill Considerations
with state and local fire codes requires building personnel to have a fire
safety and evacuation plan that follows International Fire Code (IFC)
many commercial office buildings, evacuation drills must be conducted annually
unless localities amend their code to a more frequent basis. If a building has
ambulatory care facilities, educational (K-12) or institutional operations,
evacuation drills may be required to take place on a monthly basis. Check with
your local fire officials for further guidance on required drill frequency.
it is important to plan for fire drills, it is even more important to be
prepared if an actual fire emergency arises. Evacuating a building during a
fire emergency needs to be the primary objective and social distancing should
be considered a secondary concern. In those cases where evacuation protocols
conflict with social distancing requirements, exiting the building during a
fire emergency should be given priority. The following recommendations explore
other ways to mitigate exposure to COVID-19 during an evacuation:
- If a building has a complete fire sprinkler system, consider asking local fire officials for a “defend in place strategy” with a floor by floor evacuation. Buildings with voice evacuation systems are especially helpful to guide evacuations based on where the emergency occurs.
- Consider altering your reassembly areas. You should designate multiple assembly places that have enough space for social distancing requirements. Ensure that floor fire wardens are familiar with new assembly areas and have them disseminate information to their groups. If possible, mark evacuation locations where they can be plainly seen if those areas are under the building owners’ control. (Parking lots, green spaces, courtyard, etc.)
- Encourage tenants, staff and visitors to wear masks or face coverings when exiting the building after an alarm is activated. Supply floor wardens with extra masks they can use to disseminate to their groups.
Titan’s emergency planning services capabilities include the creation of a facility-specific, all-hazards emergency plan. Every one of our current emergency services clients has a core pandemic response guide included as a portion of their emergency operations plan document. Contact Titan’s Director of Emergency Management, Tom Henkey at firstname.lastname@example.org if we can provide additional insight or assistance.
always, if you “See Something, Say
Something”. For life-threatening emergencies, call 911. To report
suspicious activity, call 855-RPRT-2-S4 (855-777-8274).