In this article, Dan Harding explores the primitive nature of using physical records, or relying on the memory of colleagues, to identify who is within a school/college/university building, grounds or campus, in the event of an emergency. Not only is this an unreliable method, particularly as with large sites often comes a large amount of people, but it could result in significant health and safety concerns, not to mention potential tragedy:
We’re all familiar with the fire safety drill, from regular practice runs at school all the way through to adult working life. An alarm is sounded, signalling the urgent evacuation of every person in the building – in an orderly fashion – only to stand at the designated meeting point where the fire marshals in their high-visibility vests, clipboards in hand, attempt to ascertain whether everyone has made it out of the building – preferably in record time – sound familiar?
No matter the environment or circumstance, fire drills are a vital part of a business’ fire safety plan, an obligation that every business must fulfill to ensure adequate systems are in place and all employees are aware of appropriate procedures in the event of an emergency.
However, as important as they are, fire drills are a nuisance, disrupting the work day and often met with complacency and begrudging sighs at the thought of having to take time out to evacuate the building and stand outside so the staff can be timed and counted.
So in today’s digitally-enabled world, how can technology help to streamline safety whilst also providing peace of mind that in a real emergency, you know exactly who needs to be accounted for?
Running through an evacuation procedure in theory should be a swift exercise, undertaken as though a real threat is present. However, we’ve all been there; it’s a rare occasion that a drill is met with enthusiasm or speed.
Especially with the usual confusion that occurs as marshalls try to establish who is on site that day to make sure everyone is checked off the list – often this process takes far longer than it should as there is typically no registration system in place to establish who should be on the list in the first place.
It’s fair to assume that a smaller campus will have greater visibility of who is on site at the time of an emergency, but if an incident occurs and panic ensues, is this a system that can be relied upon?
Furthermore, as the size of the team increases, this becomes even more of a challenge as they must rely on colleagues knowing each other’s diaries. 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.
What happens to visitors in this situation? The pen and paper visitor sign in book is often relied upon to confirm external visitors to a premises, but is notoriously unreliable when it comes to people recording the time in and out of a building.
It certainly cannot be relied upon for accuracy in an emergency situation. And in a panic, who will remember to collect the book and also remember which staff members are in that day?
Never leave a person behind
However, with technological advancements, the visitor sign in book is now a redundant method. Instead of relying on unreliable pen and paper systems or the memories of colleagues, visitor and staff management apps provide a single view of personnel on site.
So in the event of an emergency, the fire marshall can instantly view an entire list of people in the building by logging into an online portal through any mobile device, rather than wasting time, and potentially putting people in danger, collecting physical records of who is on site.
When you consider what could happen to those unaccounted for in a real-life emergency, it’s a frightening thought and puts the necessity of fire drills into perspective.
Safety is paramount. Therefore, businesses should reassess their strategy when it comes to staff and visitor management, utilising simple, affordable technology solutions to put appropriate safeguards in place and make sure no one is forgotten.
Not only will this speed up the process of required fire drills, but also put minds at ease that in the event of a real-life emergency, a person will never be left behind.
Dan Harding, Director, Sign In App