Do we invest in resilience when we plan for an evacuation?

BCAW2019 - Investing in Resilience. By David Campbell

It’s 10am on a Monday morning and you have just started a team meeting in the conference room.  The emergency evacuation alarm sounds.  You pause and wait for the usual announcement that the system is being tested, hoping it will be over in a minute so you can get back to the important items on your agenda.

However, the alarm does not stop, and an announcement calls for immediate evacuation.  You are told to make your way to the nearest exit and follow the instructions of your floor warden.

You and your team dutifully follow the instructions, make your way out of the building and to the designated assembly area….or so you think.

This is what we all experience during a well-rehearsed drill.  But reality can be somewhat different.

Many evacuation plans work quite well at getting people safely out of a building—based on the assumption that everyone can clearly follow the instructions and there are no impediments to a clear exit.

But what if that is not the case? 

  • What if someone in your team has an injury or disability that prevents a smooth unaided traverse of the 15 flights of exit stairs they need to navigate? 

  • What happens when your designated assembly area is no longer accessible?

  • What happens if you only partially evacuate before it is no longer safe to continue evacuating?

  • What happens when the threat is outside, and you need to shelter in place for an unknown amount of time?

  • What happens after the evacuation is complete, but the facility can’t be re-occupied?  Where do you staff go and what happens to your business operations?

Then there are all the devices, bags and other stuff you left on your desk when you evacuated? (So much for the “leave your phone on your desk during meetings” policy!)

An organisation that invests in resilience considers these questions as part of its emergency and business continuity planning process.  It has staff that are trained and equipped to adapt to changing environments during an emergency and can make decisions that minimise business disruption. 

If you have doubts about the effectiveness of your emergency planning process and how it links with your continuity planning, consider dropping us a line at

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