One of the best ways to prepare for a possible evacuation – regardless of the cause – is through conducting tabletop exercises. This will ensure that emergency responders and the general public understand proper tactics to follow that will keep everyone safe and that an evacuation occurs quickly.
When children are involved, practice is especially important. Whether or not a hot site needs to be used depends on the gravity of a situation, however, consistent evacuation drills will ensure that children understand how to keep themselves and others safe.
An elementary school in Georgia had to put its students' skills to the test, as potentially lethal carbon monoxide levels forced students and faculty to evacuate on Monday. According to the Associated Press, the Atlanta-based school sent 42 students and six teachers to hospitals, amid the evacuation of 500 people.
Stephanie Hon, assistant director of the Georgia Poison Center, told the AP it's easy for initial symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning to be confused with the flu since both include malaise, headache, nausea and vomiting. However, carbon monoxide side effects generally do not include fever, and the symptoms lessen when an individual is exposed to fresh air.
Hon added that it was good news that the children did not appear to have suffered severe symptoms, as they were only exposed for a short time.
While it was not immediately known if the school had carbon monoxide detectors, Hon said, "A carbon monoxide detector, if appropriately used and installed and checked often, could have very well been a warning for this school system."
The equivalent of a business continuity plan for schools and universities will ensure the safety of students and faculty. A comprehensive risk assessment will let decision-makers realize what precautionary measures need to be put in place. From there, tabletop exercises can guarantee that when evacuations are necessary, they are performed calmly and quickly, keeping all individuals safe.