Designing A Workplace Evacuation System

Evacuation emergencies can happen at a workplace, regardless of how prepared and 'safe' the site is. Unforeseen incidents such as natural disasters, flooding, an environmental risk (such as summer temperatures), or a security breach that puts workers and visitors at risk, can require a full or partial site evacuation. Make sure you have the right system in place.

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What's An Evacuation System?

In an emergency, you need to consider what equipment and processes you will use to evacuate people from your site. What type of emergency would require an evacuation? What type of evacuation alert is needed? Who has permission to trigger an evacuation? What prevents false evacuations?

The purpose of a workplace evacuation alarm system is to warn people on site about a fire or dangerous situation so they can leave that environment quickly and calmly. It can use a loud evacuation siren (or several), a discreet messaging service, and/or a spoken word alarm which is ideal for spaces with many different rooms and people who have not trained to evacuate that specific space (such as an airport). 

Evacuation Trigger

We've all seen those evacuation triggers that sit behind a glass panel with the Break Glass In Case Of Emergency warning. These triggers are hard wired into the wall, which then connects to a master unit. They're a permanent solution with a substantial upfront investment. Vanguard Wireless' evacuation triggers are much easier to install or retrofit. They're portable, wireless devices that use a radio frequency or cellular signal to connect to the system network.

Regardless of what you install, what's most important is that anyone - without having laid eyes on the trigger before - can easily and quickly trigger an evacuation alert without having to read instructions or undertake a complex process such as logging in. It should just be a big button or handle that can trigger an evacuation alert immediately.

Evacuation Siren

This is what sounds when an evacuation alert is received. When reviewing your evac system layout, you should ensure that the siren can be heard everywhere on site. If there's areas with little coverage then you need to install more sirens. 

Vanguard Wireless offer two types of evacuation sirens. Both are 240V sirens and utilise an internal radio frequency or cellular chip to establish a wireless network with other devices. 

  • The Klaxon siren (SuperM) sounds at 127dB and requires connection to mains power. Users can customise how long the siren sounds for during the evacuation process e.g. 12 minutes AND the seconds on/seconds off timing of the siren sound pattern.
  • The combined evacuation trigger + siren sounds at 110dB and can be battery powered or mains powered. Users can customise how long the siren sounds for during the evacuation process e.g. 12 minutes.
  • Both evacuation sirens can be triggered by a physical evacuation trigger, the control panel, or smartphone app and triggered individually or all together.
  • Both evacuation sirens can be installed temporarily or permanently.

Evacuation Lights / Evacuation Strobes

Some workers wear protective headphones or earplugs which can inhibit their ability to hear an evacuation siren during an evacuation alert. In these instances it can be useful to also include evacuation lights or strobes in your evacuation alarm system design, so workers receive both audio AND visual cues. Vanguard Wireless combined evacuation trigger + siren devices combine a 115dB siren with a flashing red strobe light, offering workers on site audio and visual warnings as part of the evacuation alert. 

Smoke Detectors / Smoke Sensors

Installation of smoke detectors and smoke sensors work to detect smoke from a fire in areas where workers or property are at risk of an evacuation emergency, but may not be present or notice signs in order to trigger an evacuation alert themselves. The installation and use of these devices is guided by various state and federal regulations. It's important to familiarise yourself with your obligations for your workplace and usage of these devices.

Wireless Fire Alarm Systems

If you're considering what type of evacuation system you need to design for your workplace, one of the options is wireless. The benefit of a wireless system is that they're normally inexpensive to retrofit (if you're replacing an older system) and may not require specialist electrical installation. Vanguard Wireless evacuation systems use an internal radio frequency or cellular chip to establish a wireless connection between each device without repeaters. Wireless devices also suit temporary installations because they can be relocated as a site changes.

Designing A Workplace Evacuation System

The supplier of your evacuation system is best placed to design a system for your site, but there's some information you can share that can assist them in doing so:

  1. What are the types of evacuation risks your workplace faces, and how likely are they to occur?
  2. Are you replacing an existing system or installing something new?
  3. Do you want your workers to be able to trigger an evacuation?
  4. How do you want your workers and visitors on site to receive an evacuation alert?
  5. Do you want event logs and reports that help you analyse the event for safety auditing and process improvement?
  6. Is there existing hardware or software that the new system needs to integrate with (if possible)?

Emergency alert system technology has advanced greatly over the last decade, particularly with the availability of smartphone apps and software integrations. Make sure you workplace is using a smart, future proofed evacuation system that protects workers with clear evacuation event communication.

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