Evacuations: Planning Considerations
Evacuation planning and preparation forms a critical part of any organisation’s life safety and security systems, as well as its Duty of Care requirement for overseas operations and business travel.
If you have international operations in locations prone to disruption, violence and natural disaster then you need to read this article. Prevention is better than cure, and with a robust and effective country security and risk management plan that includes supporting procedures prevention is more likely. However, things do go wrong and even the best risk mitigation plan cannot withstand large scale disruption, Violence or acts of nature. Therefore, evacuation planning and preparation is an essential part of the overall business resilience and risk management process.
By way of an introduction and overview to evacuations, this article will present critical components and considerations for the evacuation planning and preparation process.
The critical components that support evacuation planning and conduct include:
- A means of information collection, analysis and dissemination
- A 24/7 situational analysis and monitoring capability
- An effective threat level indication system with associated ‘triggers’ and actions
- An effective risk management system that includes coverage of security risk
- Robust prevention and risk mitigation measures
- A sound emergency and crisis management system and decision making process
Planning is the cornerstone of success in any operation or process. Evacuations are no different in that respect.
Effective planning and preparation has a direct effect on the ability of an organisation to successfully conduct an evacuation. The basic components and considerations for effective evacuation planning and preparation include the following:
- Identification of specific threats and risks associated with the location and activity being undertaken.
- The ability to monitor and react effectively to evolving threats and likely triggers.
- Identification of what actions are required in the event of risks being realised.
- Resources required and what’s available to support the evacuation to include:
- Communications requirements before, during and after the evacuation.
- Logistic and administrative requirements.
- Evacuation means: Redundancy and over reliance on National Government sponsored or provided evacuations.
- Evacuation routes: Ensure there are alternatives.
- Decision points: ‘Shelter in place’ or evacuate; full or partial evacuation.
In order to effectively prempt or react, threats and risks must be indentified as early as possible.
Threats and Risks
Early threat identification and risk interdiction is critical to the successful execution of the evacuation plan. Whilst the process and methodology of threat identification and risk management should be universal within the organisation there will be vairations in threat types and risk realisation depending on location. Other factors that need to be considered include:
- The geo-political climate.
- Environmental and natural hazards; these may be seasonal.
- Security and stability issues.
- Societal, ethnic and religious influences.
- The financial and economic situation.
In order to ensure that the threat identification and risk analysis process is effective there is a requirement for an efficient and robust information collection, analysis and dissemination process. This process needs to be supported by a 24/7 monitoring and decision making capability.
It is essential that the plan incorporate a process for continuous monitoring of the situation, to include threats and risks, so that timely decisions can be made and aapropriate actions taken.
Monitoring, Pre-emption and Reaction
A capability that provides a 24/7 monitoring of information threads, updated threat and risk analysis, and provides the ability to respond is essential. Some organisations will have the resources to provide a dedicated monitoring and control centre. Others will decide to outsource this function to commercial providers. Some will choose to institute a ‘Duty Manager’ system that provides awareness and management engagement. Regardless of the system choosen it must be robust, effective and feed into the planning and preparation process.
The evacuation plan must contain details of this process. This process will allow premptive action or timely reaction to evolving situations. Early intervention will increase the likelihood of a successful outcome.
In order to effectively take the requisite action and execute the evacuation plan there needs to be adequate resources allocated.
Under resourcing of any plan will lead to its ineffectiveness and its demise. This is particularly true of the evacuation plan. Adequate resourcing and the effective use of available assets will increase the likelihood of success and will decrease loss, damage and disruption to life, finances, reputation and business activity.
Resources required for an effective evacuation plan include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Resources to sustain life: Water, food, shelter, medical support.
- Communications that will operate effectively before, during and after an evacuation.
- Mapping, charts and navigation means.
- Finances: The situation may mean that electronic funds are not available and that banks and ATMs are not operating.
- Accommodation: Ad-hoc, temporary and emergency to include accommodation arrangements at the evacuation destination.
- Evacuation means: Do you provide the means and assets to conduct a ‘self evacuation’ or do you rely on a provider for this? Ensure that there is redundancy in how you can get out.
- Do not rely on governments to get their nationals out. They are generally slow to react and some will provide only limited assistance.
As previoulsy mentioned timely decision making will be critical to successfully avoiding or the successful conduct of an evacuation.
There are many critical and timely decisions to be made in the lead up to, during and in the aftermath of an evacuation. Here are some points to consider during the planning phase that will make decisions during the conduct of an evacuation easier:
- Phased versus full evacuation?
- ‘Shelter in Place’ or evacuate?
- Evacuate early or wait/delay?
- Maintenance of operations and business activity after evacuation?
- When and how to reoccupy and restart?
- Who gets evacuated? Everyone? Expatriates and local nationals, or just expatriate staff?
This article outlined some of the main considerations for evacuation planning and preparation. It is critical for the successful conduct of an evacuation that a robust and effective plan be in place. It is too late once the event or emergency has occured to start planning for an evacuation. The points that have been highlighted in this article will provide the foundations for sound evacuation planning.