Commercial Real Estate (CRE) Emergency Egress and Evacuation Plans for Fire and Life SafetyThe safety of building occupants should be the top priority for every building manager. Often, this means implementing security protocols designed to protect tenants from external dangers.

Several instances this week highlight the need for property managers to take swift action when necessary, as bomb threats were called in to a handful of high-profile buildings, including Princeton University, Richmond International Airport in Virginia and the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on Tuesday, forcing the evacuation of all facilities, USA Today reported.

Evacuations of large buildings often takes a significant amount of time as various areas such as bathrooms, stairwells and offices need to be checked for injured or disabled individuals. Building managers need to regularly review emergency protocols so staff members are able to act quickly to ensure  visitor safety. Even after properties are evacuated, large crowds can be difficult to control. Building managers need to coordinate with security contractors as well as local emergency responders about securing surrounding areas and preventing unnecessary access until situations are resolved. Often, this requires more personnel than property managers have on hand, but the steps taken in the initial instances can be essential to saving lives.

Get the word out quickly, but intelligently
Immediate access to information is an important part of ensuring building occupants’ safety during any emergency. Facility operators should have procedures in place for informing tenants about situations and the actions required to protect employees. Fortunately, technology is making it easier for property managers to share updates and information. Social media or mobile devices can be used to quickly pass instructions on to key personnel within organizations. It may be necessary to review with tenants who these individuals are to ensure that lines of communication are open when needed.

Risk management strategies should also carefully consider when information is sent out. Broadly distributing alerts about a potential bomb threat could lead to panic that may create additional threats to building occupants. This is especially true in situations where there is smoke or a power outage resulting in conditions with low visibility. The goal should be to limit information that could lead to a confusion while a large number of people remain in confined areas. An email or text message notifying occupants that there is an emergency situation and they are required to head outside is often enough to spur people into action without creating chaos, while a follow up announcement can provide more details once the building has been secured.

Returning to operations as usual
Not every emergency situation will be the result of a potential threat; some may have more mundane causes. This was the case at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, when an electrical fire forced the evacuation of  Concourse D. A small explosion occurred in a maintenance shed near one of the gates. No one was hurt, but the resulting smoke and power outage caused the evacuation of the airport. CNN reported that passengers have been allowed to return to the facility, but a partial power outage is limiting operations.

In addition to having an effective emergency action strategy, building managers need to ensure their risk management plans include steps to get properties up and running again. In addition to getting power back on, airport workers need to ensure that visitors have the information they require to make their flights, many of which have been delayed due to the fire. Creating checklists to verify  building safety during and after an emergency can help minimize the impact that an event has. The Georgia State Capitol and Richmond airport reopened after local police departments were unable to find any trace of bombs, USA Today reported.