Given the increasing number of terrorist attacks around the world, it’s essential for many organisations to have response procedures in place. For places of mass gathering, these should incorporate an effective plan for mass evacuation. Evacuation strategies aren’t only required for terrorist and active shooter attacks, they are also critical in other major emergencies such as fire, gas leaks and hazmat.

The following places of mass gathering should prioritise their evacuation strategy, making sure that it is customised and kept up-to-date with regular training:

- Sports stadiums
- Airports
- Tourist attractions
- Theatres
- Shopping centres
- Schools and universities

Failure to prepare for a mass evacuation can significantly worsen a tragedy. In some cases, more casualties occur in the crush of a poorly coordinated evacuation than as the result of the disaster which caused it. Here are some recent examples:

February 2003 – 100 people were killed at The Station nightclub fire in Rhode Island, USA. Many of the deaths were caused in the crush.

January 2013 – At least 242 people were killed and 168 injured as a result of a nightclub fire in the city of Santa Maria, Brazil. This was largely due to number of people in the venue and the lack of emergency exits.

October 2015 – 12 girls were killed on a stairway while trying to escape their school building during a major earthquake in Afghanistan.

Evacuation procedures should set out when to employ full evacuation, staged evacuation, and when to combine it with shelter in place. Here are some other key considerations for your organisation when developing an evacuation strategy:

1. Who will make the decision to evacuate? Establish roles and responsibilities for the evacuation team.
2. How is an evacuation, shelter in place or relocation determined? Develop a decision document to determine when to implement an evacuation procedure.
3. What incidents would warrant a full evacuation?
4. How will your evacuation team interact with local emergency services? What are primary and secondary means of communication? How will the public be made aware of an emergency?
5. Be aware of evacuation routes – Identify obstacles, locked gates and fences, and roads.
6. A triage site should be erected in an emergency to conduct first aid where necessary.

Dynamiq have developed a detailed framework and procedures to handle mass evacuations safely. If you’d like more information or for site specific assessments, contact Philip Kent-Hughes.

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