Recently we have seen many news stories in which organisations have been forced to implement their emergency management procedures. During an emergency, after initial considerations, the chief warden is generally faced with two options: evacuate or lockdown. But what about both at once?

Organisations generally opt for a full evacuation in an emergency, believing this to be the safest option. But total evacuation is not always appropriate and can actually be disruptive. It may also place evacuees at greater risk by moving them closer to danger.

Meanwhile, the lockdown can be effective in a variety of emergency situations. They also assist in the evacuation of areas directly under threat as they allow rapid movement.

Recently, Dynamiq consultants were observing an evacuation exercise of a large, multi-building school with 1800 students. An area was identified as the danger zone, and we challenged the chief warden to consider the danger zone prior to making an evacuation announcement. The chief warden ordered the building in immediate danger, along with others exposed to the emergency to be evacuated, while others simply went into lockdown to keep occupants away from the risk. The exercise was completed quickly and efficiently with minimum disruption. The chief warden was converted.

After this evacuation exercise, two actual emergency situations occurred within 30 days. The first was an external gas leak and the other was a car fire on school grounds. Using the same technique both times, the chief warden implemented the ‘evacuate and lockdown’ procedure as practised. Both times, the responding fire brigade were impressed with the decision making shown by the chief warden and praised the team for their efficiency.

Another school advised us that they used the lockdown method during a medical emergency in the playground. By locking down the school, the area was completely clear of students allowing easy access for paramedics and protecting the privacy of the student involved. Once again, praise was forthcoming from the paramedics because of the professionalism and efficiency of the team.

This methodology should be discussed at your next emergency planning committee meeting, documented in your emergency plan and practised during your next emergency exercise scenario. For more information on the right emergency management plan for your organisation, contact Andrew Larsen: andrew.larsen@dynamiqglobal.com.

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