How To Build An Emergency Evacuation Plan That Will Actually Work


The thing about emergencies is that no one is sitting around waiting and wishing for one to arise. But when it does there are, more often than not, some measures put in place to help mitigate damage, and to prevent said emergency from escalating. The same holds true for small businesses and major corporations. None of them are idling around waiting for something dangerous to happen in their offices, but if something does happen they have to be ready and willing to act. A lack of preparation will endanger their lives, and the lives of all their employees.

One of the biggest hazards that an emergency situation does not arise from the nature of the emergency itself, but rather from the way a company or an organization chooses to handle it. In some cases, the loss of life is increased because there are no proper emergency and evacuation protocols in place. It is always important to be ready to evacuate your business/company if need be, and laboring under the delusion that an emergency will never hit your place of work will not help you at all. Even though you may never know when you might have to evacuate yourself and your employees, it is always best to make sure that you are up to the task.

What are Workplace Emergencies?

A workplace emergency is essentially any occurrence that has the potential to physically harm employees and patrons of your business. In addition to these parameters, if anything is threatening your daily operations, or is causing environmental or physical harm, it is classified as a workplace emergency. Workplace emergencies range from tornadoes, hurricanes, toxic spills (common in industrial complexes), to active shooter situations. Workplace emergencies are not as uncommon as people would like to believe, and it is really hard to think straight when your life and the lives of many other people are on the line. This is the reason why it is always best to prepare for these kinds of emergencies before they happen. Active preparation will ensure a minimal loss of life and it will help maintain the integrity of your company.

What are Emergency Evacuation Plans?

Emergency evacuation plans should be a core part of every company’s emergency action plan. These plans are put in place to dictate what should happen in the event that a workplace emergency arises. It is important to realize that not every emergency will lead to an evacuation, but it is still important for an evacuation plan to be in place. These plans are meant to ensure that people can safely navigate their way through an emergency safely. This is much easier said than done, mostly because of how different each emergency situation can be, so it is necessary for an evacuation plan to be in place for every possible outcome.

A comprehensive Emergency Evacuation plan will have information escape routes and escape procedures that should be used in the midst of an emergency. These routes should be indicated on a map that makes it easy for every employee or customer to find their way around. Companies should consult commercial locksmiths in order to make sure that their escape routes have the appropriate locks in place. This is extremely important because having the wrong locks in place could impair the effectiveness of an evacuation. In addition to this, emergency evacuation plans should have an adequate description of how employees will be notified when there needs to be an evacuation. If a company does not plan for an evacuation, this mostly leads to a confused and vastly disorganized evacuation attempt. This then leads to more harm or loss of life. In the process of crafting an emergency evacuation plan, companies should strive to make sure that they cover the necessities:

  1. The first thing that companies need to do is to determine when and where an evacuation will be necessary. As stated above, not every emergency will lead to the need for an evacuation. However, there is a thin line separating these things so it is important to figure out what exactly will lead to an evacuation.
  2. Make sure that you establish an emergency chain of command, so that your employees clearly know who is in charge of issuing evacuation orders and telling them where to go.
  3. Companies need to hammer out escape and evacuation routes. They also need to make sure that these are placed in areas that can be easily seen and that are easily accessible to employees.
  4. It is also highly important that your evacuation procedures look to cater to individuals with disabilities.
  5. Also, make sure that there is a system in place that makes it easy to keep track of people before, during, and after the evacuation. Evacuations tend to be high adrenaline situations, so it is very easy to lose track of people if no one is paying attention. This is why it is important to have a way of keeping track of people in these instances.

How Do You Build An Emergency Evacuation Plan?

In order to build a solid emergency evacuation plan that actually works the way it was intended, companies need to focus on a few central aspects and nail these down. Once this has been done, their emergency evacuation plan should work the way it was meant to.

Notification – It is important for companies to figure out how they are going to notify employees of the fact that there is an emergency evacuation happening. This should be detailed in the company’s Emergency Action Plan. The notification can be done via sound system or by using visual prompts, such as flashing emergency lights. Essentially, companies have to nail down a method that allows them to contact every member of their staff, and let them know that there is about to be an evacuation. The worst possible thing that could happen is that some people might not get the notification, and thus their lives will be placed in more danger because they are not prepared to evacuate. Also, it is important for companies to ensure that their notification methods are also tailored to people with disabilities. In this effect, they can use any combination of auditory, tactile or visual notification methods in order to ensure that no one is left behind.

Evacuation Warden – In order to have an evacuation plan that works, it is important to put someone in charge of overseeing the entire evacuation process. Leadership is an important mantle and it is even more important when people’s lives are at stake. This will help make streamline the evacuation process. This evacuation officer will be in charge of coordinating the emergency evacuation, and they will be the person who makes the call to begin the evacuation. This individual, or group of people, will also be in charge of planning the evacuation route and making sure that everyone is aware of it.

Plan the Evacuation Route – The evacuation route is one of the most important things that will determine whether or not your emergency evacuation plan is going to work or not. This route is essentially the passage that your employees and customers will take in order to find safety, so it is important that your primary and secondary evacuation routes are properly planned out.

In doing so, companies need to take into account the layout of their building, the number of employees that they have, access to fire escapes etc. This will help them plan the best possible route. It is also advised to plan several evacuation routes based on the several possible emergencies that you could be presented with.

Practice the Emergency Evacuation – The expression “practice makes perfect” applies to emergency evacuations as well, it is important to make sure that your employees have an exceptional understanding of what is expected of them during an emergency evacuation. This also gives them the opportunity to become familiar with the evacuation warden as they go through safety drills. It will also help them grow confident in the emergency action plan and trust that it is in place to keep them safe. Also, it will cultivate the habit of people looking out for each other and this will lead to a decrease in loss of life due to disorganization. The process of practicing the emergency evacuation will also help companies figure out if their building is up to safety code, and if there are any additions that they can make in order to make their emergency action plan run smoothly.


Emergency Evacuation plans are more important than people know. They are responsible for ensuring that there is no unnecessary damage or loss to any employees or to their patrons. It might be tempting for some companies to neglect emergency plans because of all the work that goes into them, but it is much less work than what you will have to put in if you are caught unprepared in the midst of a major crisis or emergency. Hopefully, the tips listed above will help you fashion an emergency plan that actually works well for your company, and one that keeps people safe.

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Building a Culture of Confidence

Confident Woman Talking

Confidence and competence: Two invaluable characteristics to possess in today’s professional environment. While these traits have different meanings, they are inextricably linked. Consistent research findings show men tend to overestimate their competence while women underestimate it, yet research has also shown that women tend to be more effective, and more competent, leaders.

The recent Oracle HCM Users Group (OHUG) Global Conference brought together hundreds of men and women in human resources technology for a workshop about how confidence can influence success within the industry. Among the topics discussed was how leaders, both male and female, can create an environment that brings out the best in others, and foster confidence across the board.

Make confidence an organizational goal

Inspiring change across organizations requires reinforcement from the top down. Offering trainings and forums for self-reflection, like the workshop held last month at OHUG, can help employees identify areas for development in how they portray themselves, speak publicly, or interact with others – and to address any growth opportunities accordingly. Fostering a culture of inclusion and facilitating new and innovative ways for leadership to invest in the development of top talent will ultimately lead to a much more productive, much more engaged (and happier!) workforce. At PwC, we often rely on Katty Kay and Claire Shipman’s The Confidence Code as inspiration for our workshop trainings and discussions.

Help all employees, regardless of gender, understand how to foster and affect confidence

It’s crucial that both men and women contribute to the conversation — help female employees understand how to stand up for themselves and make their voices heard, but also coach male employees to understand not only how they can support their female peers but also the benefit of doing so.

At a recent leadership meeting, microphones had been set up throughout the room for staff members to ask questions. So I was initially confused when I saw a senior leader step up to the microphone, but that feeling quickly gave way to inspiration. He said, “I’m up here for someone that would like to ask a question, but isn’t 100 percent comfortable in front of a large audience. I’d like everyone to welcome her to the microphone and recognize the courage it takes to ask a question.”

To me, that was a perfect example of something so simple that can have a profound impact. By bringing out the best in ourselves, we can bring out the best in others and benefit the organization as a whole.

Create a community to build confidence through mentorship

Every level within an organization’s hierarchy can contribute to confidence-building in the workplace. Mentors are invaluable resources who can not only motivate and coach, but can also help employees recognize in real-time the behaviors that undermine the appearance of confidence. Companies with structured mentorship programs are seeing strong interest and participation from the workforce. For example, PwC’s Women in Technology (WIT) initiative empowers more than 1,400 members throughout PwC’s global network of firms through a variety of avenues, including mentorship.

Programs like WIT and the conversation at OHUG demonstrate why the argument of competence vs. confidence is so important. There are so many talented, motivated professionals in the workforce, but it’s our responsibility as leaders to provide them with the tools and resources they need to make their voices heard. A recent survey of WIT members found that more than 90 percent of respondents wanted to continue their mentorship relationship, found it effective and would recommend the program to others. By providing mentorship opportunities and continuing to grow confidence, create workplaces where employees feel valued and respected, and improve outcomes for technology employees across the board.

About the Author

Lisa Feigen Dugal

Lisa Feigen Dugal currently serves as a member of the US Advisory Leadership Team in the role of US Chief Diversity Officer, and is the Global Executive Partner for a large, global CPG company. Lisa also served as the Advisory Retail and Consumer (R&C) Leader from 2006 to 2013, expanding the size of the practice by tenfold.

As Advisory CDO, Lisa has changed the conversation across all dimensions of diversity and has given the topic of diversity a seat at the table. After assuming this role in 2013, Lisa integrated D&I objectives into the business imperatives and day to day decision making. She also has tied diversity to growth agenda of the practice. Areas of focus include: increasing cultural dexterity, identifying development and advancement opportunities for female and minority professionals, designing and executing Leadership Development programs, enhancing recruiting processes and creating new sources of talent, and engaging multi-generations in the workplace. Lisa has spearheaded numerous initiatives that attract, grow and retain top female talent such as co-founding community of interest, PwC Women in Technology, with more than 850 women and men actively making a difference at PwC and in the marketplace. As a recognized speaker on Diversity & Inclusion’s link to business growth, Lisa also serves as a strategic thought partner to PwC’s clients on the topic of D&I best practices.

As a Retail and Consumer leader, her team of over 2,600 R&C professionals works with clients to address their most complex and interesting business issues and opportunities from strategy to execution. Lisa is also a well-known thought leader in the industry and is regularly consulted by The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Chicago Tribune, MediaPost Marketing Daily, Progressive Grocer, Drug Store News, among others to offer industry expertise.

Lisa earned her B.S. with High Honors from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA.

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