Is an emergency evacuation test a true measure of safety?

As a condition of certification, aircraft manufacturers are required to demonstrate that their aircraft can be completely evacuated in 90 seconds in an emergency. So, the manufacturer pays a planeload of "passengers" of different ages, genders and sizes, blocks a couple of exits, introduces smoke into the cabin and sets off the alarms to prove this can be done.

This scenario is far from comprehensive, and it’s the same for your staff evacuation planning.

“The aircraft has not just come to a screeching, terrifying, metal-shredding halt. There's no flaming engines, no blood, no hysteria, no banged-up bodies to climb over, nobody is trying to wrench their carry-ons from an overhead compartment.” Wrote Michael Gebicki in Traveller. 

There is no doubt that in a real-life airplane emergency, your chances of survival are far better in an aircraft that can be totally evacuated in 90 seconds, but the testing environment omits the people in total panic obstructing your exit, your broken leg, a jammed door from the crash impact.

Similarly the routine drills of the correct Evacuation Procedure for safely getting your people out of a building in an emergency do not include people running back for their mobile phone, people who are panicked, injured or simply in shock. There is no black smoke pouring down the corridors rendering fleeing employees unconscious, and no one jumps in desperation from a window.

For this reason, it’s important that your Fire Wardens are doing much more than simply going through the actions. Proper training can encourage your key safety people to think proactively about the random occurrences in an emergency and prepare them to deal with these effectively.

Ask us about Fire Warden Training and Evacuation Planning