Choosing an Assembly Point is a key component in your evacuation procedure plan, so it is good to know what to think about when selecting correctly. In the event of an emergency you won’t have much time to think, so this decision will need to be well considered ahead of time. You must also be aware that Assembly Points will differ between premises, so read on to find out what you might need to consider and what makes a good choice for your workplace…
THINK – SPACE
Firstly assess the size of your workplace, this includes all staff and potential visitors to your place of business. If you work within a multi-occupant building then it is likely there will be more than one person in charge so co-ordinating with these will be important to do also. If you have a larger volume of staff/visitors etc. then this will mean that you will require in turn a larger assembly space. If such a large space isn’t available then it will be worth considering multiple points for evacuation, where certain sections of the building have different predetermined routes and meeting points, to make sure that your staff can get to safety as quick as possible.
If the space is too small it could cause unwanted stress on the situation which could have been prevented. In a critical situation you will want to keep everyone as calm as possible so forcing them into small spaces will not help this.
THINK – DISTANCE
Distance from the premise is important for many reasons, but most critically, in the event of an emergency situation you will need the most direct and fast route to safety. Once you are outside of the building you may not be completely safe just yet, and the effect of heat and smoke will be apparent even once you are out in the open. So a well ventilated, open area will make a good choice.
If the route to the assembly point is not immediately obvious then make sure you have sign-posted clearly and keep it well lit, as any confusion can and will lose time. Keep it simple; in high-stress situations you want nothing to add to this, as this can lead to further hazards and confusion. Visit our page on Fire Safety Signs and Emergency Lighting for more information on how we can help make your escape routes as clear as possible.
You must also consider any potential falling debris and collapse zones as if the building acquires any structural damage then this could be a possibility. So think about the building itself – the layout and height will be factors in this decision.
THINK – ACCESS
Next, while you are en-route to your designated Assembly Point, you will need to make sure it is easy to access and that there are no obstructions that might prolong your escape route. Narrow or restricted walkways won’t work, as they can be easily crowded and/or blocked. And they can be especially difficult for those with disabilities if wheelchair access if required. Consider the safest and most direct route for all, as you will want to be sure you aren’t having to pass any unnecessary further hazards – for example routes that might take you back past the premise into any potential areas of heat or smoke would be a bad choice.
You will also need to think about the layout and emergency exit points within the building, this will also determine your choice of assembly route and point. If you have multiple routes within the building then this might also be a reason to allocate more than one meeting point. You don’t want to force anyone on longer routes around the premise just to meet at one point.
THINK – LOCATION
The location of your chosen point needs to be well lit, and far enough away from the building that you won’t be affected any further by the progressing situation. The space needs to be flexible, so no dead ends or enclosed areas as this could pose further risk to your staff and/or occupants.
There will likely be traffic of some sort near the building so try to choose an area which avoids crossing any busy roads or pedestrian routes, in a tense situation this could cause further hazards that should be avoided. Consider Emergency Service vehicle access also, making sure not to block any roads driveways or carparks with your assembly point of choice. Picking the wrong location could slow down rescue operations or put more people in danger and you don’t want any further incidents as a result.
THINK – A BACKUP
Situations can change rapidly so it is always useful to have a Plan B, you don’t want to be caught without one. So consider a back up Assembly Point if for whatever reason you cannot access your first choice you will need a quick second option. When things don’t go to plan you won’t want to be having to think too much about your next step so having a backup in place can only help.
Another element that is often overlooked when planning your Assembly Point is being aware of daily changes around the building itself. During building works, extensions or other disruptions it is good to have a back up plan. Your original Assembly Point or escape route to that point may be blocked or changed so be aware that you might have to change or alter your plan in response.
THINK – INFORM
Once you have made this decision it is important to make sure your staff have a full understanding of the evacuation procedure. Familiarity is key so keeping the information fresh in everyone’s minds by using regular fire drills and having important information displayed around the premise will help keep your staff safe. As having a well considered Assembly Point is only one part of a crucial and potentially life-saving plan.