Melbourne Zoo went into lockdown yesterday after an orangutan escaped its enclosure. This was a great example of a risk-based emergency management process.

The lockdown has become more prevalent in our emergency management plans and procedure documentation, although it’s usually developed as a response to a ‘personal threat’ situation such as an armed intruder.

As we saw yesterday, a flexible lockdown approach can be effective for organisations dealing with a range of external and internal emergencies.

Specifically, we have seen an increase in the use of the lockdown procedure when dealing with animal threats (from snakes to stray pets), medical emergencies (providing space for the casualty while allowing access for responding paramedics) and civil disorder.

Lockdowns have also proven effective in more common situations such as vehicle accidents, adverse weather conditions and spills/leaks of hazardous material.

For sites with multiple buildings, a lockdown procedure can be used in conjunction with an evacuation. Employing lockdown during an evacuation allows staff to move freely to safe zones or sheltered areas.

Yesterday’s incident at Melbourne Zoo showed us why having tailored, site-specific emergency management plans and emergency response training can be a huge advantage.

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