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Ensuring efficient emergency evacuations in education

Fire drills are a vital part of fire safety. Procedures must be put in place and meticulously followed, in order to keep everyone safe in the event of an emergency. Most people have experienced the familiar fire drill in education environments, which typically interrupts the school day at least once a term, herding students out of the nearest fire exit and towards the designated meeting point in an orderly fashion. Amidst the organised chaos, fire marshals are eager to know – is everyone safe and accounted for, in record time? 

Considered an inconvenience and an unwelcome interruption by many, alarm testing and evacuation practices can often be met with reluctant sighs, with many students and staff members dreading the thought of standing outside in all weathers, waiting for lengthy manual counting procedures to be completed. In today’s digitally advanced world, technology must hold the key to a better, modernised approach, providing peace of mind that everyone has been accounted for in a more timely and efficient manner.

Logistical challenges 

Whether it’s a practice run or a real life emergency, evacuation roll calls should be an orderly and well organised operation. However, if met with widespread apathy, fire marshals may struggle to ensure compliance. Hesitation and confusion surrounding the process can also cause significant delays if an effective registration system for staff and visitors is not in place, with no dependable structure implemented to ascertain exactly who needs to be accounted for.

Schools and institutions with a large cohort of students across age groups, a long list of staff members and visitors that change on a daily, or even hourly basis can be faced with various logistical challenges that make efficient roll calls exceptionally difficult to carry out in the absence of automation. The risk of miscounting, missing a visitor or simply taking too long to evacuate the building ultimately risks a potential disaster that could have otherwise been avoided. 

An efficient and reliable student, staff and visitor management system is crucial in order to avoid inevitable human errors and mitigate disastrous consequences that put lives at risk. With a responsibility to protect the lives of everyone on site, it is vital that institutions implement an updated strategy, saving time and significantly reducing the margin for error in the event of an actual emergency. 

Streamlined solutions   

Even with huge advances in the technology available to schools, businesses and organisations to assist them in streamlining their evacuation processes, the notoriously unreliable method of physical sign-in books remains popular in both workplaces and education. This method is undisputedly risky and often inaccurate, so how can fire marshals locate the necessary numbers and confidently account for everyone in a panic? 

After research reported by the Fire Protection Association revealed that 66% of schools in England lacked adequate fixed fire protection measures, efficient emergency evacuations in education are more important than ever, with the fire brigade called to 2,300 school fires in England between April 2015 and April 2020. Statistics revealing the alarming regularity of fire related emergencies within schools alone should urge all institutions to evaluate their existing procedures and introduce new and improved systems that do not unnecessarily rely on human memory or pen and paper. 

Ensuring safety 

In a digitally advanced society, there is no need to depend on the unreliable pen and paper sign-in books to keep everyone safe in the event of an emergency. The implementation of digital solutions, such as an app available to all nominated individuals, can provide an instant, real-time account of all personnel on site at any given time as integration with an existing Management Information System (MIS) can also be enabled. Immediate access to such information, including registration data from an MIS, ultimately enables the fire marshals to instantaneously view a full list that details every student, staff member and visitor via a mobile device, with no need to locate and collect physical records from another location. 

Fire drills are a vital part of safety in all schools, universities and colleges, and staff members have a duty of care that means safety must be prioritised over convenience. However, this responsibility does not need to be viewed at a waste of time or an unimportant interruption. With smart, affordable and dependable technology, streamlined solutions can be put in place to ensure that everyone can be easily accounted for, which in turn speeds up the process of the undeniably essential fire drill and ensures that everyone is as safe as possible in the event of a real-life emergency. 

Dan Harding, CEO, Sign In App 

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