Emergency evacuations – ensuring efficient and reliable roll calls

The fire drill has been a familiar event throughout the lives of most people. From termly practice runs at school through to the regular office drills, we’ve all experienced the scheduled interruption to the day to file out in an orderly fashion and assemble at a designated meeting point. Clipboard in hand and donning their high-visibility vest, the fire marshall is eager to know – has every last person in the building exited the building and is safe and accounted for, in record time? 

Fire drills are a critical and mandatory part of fire safety, to check systems and procedures are in place to keep everyone safe in the event of an emergency. Yet, they are also considered a nuisance by many, seen as a disruption to the working day and met with begrudging sighs at the thought of having to stand outside in the cold to be timed and counted. There has to be a better way to streamline this process for everyone while also providing peace of mind that everyone has been accounted for in the event of a real emergency. In today’s digitally-enabled world, technology holds the key. 

Risky processes

In theory, any sort of evacuation roll call should be a swift and efficient process, whether it’s a training exercise or a real life emergency. But in reality, it’s rare for drills to be met with enthusiasm or a sense of urgency. Confusion can also slow the process down as marshals attempt to ascertain who is on site that day and therefore needs to be accounted for. In the absence of a registration system for staff and visitors, this can cause significant delays as there is no reliable method to establish who should be on the list in the first place. 

Smaller offices will naturally have greater visibility of who is on site when an emergency occurs. But is memory alone a reliable system that can be depended on when panic ensues in the event of a fire, for instance? As the team increases in size, this becomes an even greater challenge as they must rely on colleagues knowing each other’s diaries. And for places with larger numbers of people – such as schools where there will be students, staff members and often visitors present – this can cause even more confusion. As such, the potential of missing someone is significant and the time it takes to confirm everyone has evacuated the building safely grows even longer – risking potential disaster. 

The complacency and confusion that comes from a lack of a reliable staff and visitor management system could be disastrous and put people’s lives at risk. Businesses have a responsibility to protect the lives of all of everyone on site and relying on people trying to remember who should or shouldn’t be in the office that day doesn’t even come close to meeting their duty of care obligations. 

Visitor management

Traditional pen and paper visitor sign-in books are still often relied upon to keep a log of visitors to a site, but this method is notoriously unreliable when it comes to people recording the time in and out of a building. So how can they be accurately accounted for in the event of an emergency? In a panic, who will remember to collect the sign-in book and also confidently know which staff members are on duty that day? 

Moreover, with a large proportion of employers now operating a hybrid model, with a mixture of staff working on site and from home, it’s more important than ever to accurately record who is in the office so everyone can be ticked off the list if an emergency occurs, and time isn’t wasted trying to find someone who is actually working from home that day. Those businesses without a smart staff and visitor management system are needlessly putting employees’ lives at risk and keeping their drill procedures as unnecessarily inefficient and ineffective.

No one left behind

There’s simply no need to try to depend on unreliable pen and paper visitor sign-in books, or colleague memories to keep people safe. Visitor management and staff sign in apps can provide an immediate central view of all personnel on site. This enables the fire marshal to instantly view an entire list of who is on site for the roll call via any mobile device, rather than wasting time, and potentially putting lives at stake, collecting physical records of who is in the office on any given day.

The importance of fire drills is clear, especially when you consider what could happen to someone unaccounted for in a real emergency. But this needn’t be an element of employer responsibility that is considered time wasting or unreliable. With smart and affordable technology, streamlined solutions can be put in place to make sure no one is forgotten, thereby not only speeding up the process of essential fire drills, but ensuring that in the event of a real-life emergency –everyone is safe and accounted for. 

– Dan Harding, CEO, Sign In App