Assembly Areas, Reverse Evacuations, & Reunification Planning

by | Dec 15, 2022

As stressful as they are, the truth is that emergencies aren’t over just because the building has been evacuated. Depending on the situation, you may also need a plan for assembly areas, reverse evacuations, or reunification. Let’s look at some best practices and tips for planning for what comes next.

Assembly Areas

If you’re unfamiliar with assembly areas, they’re a designated safe zone for building occupants to meet in the event of an emergency. Frequently used when faced with fires, explosions, floods, toxic spills, and certain threats, assembly areas allow for an expeditious headcount of those who were inside the building. By having a plan in place before an emergency arises, the organization can quickly ascertain whether everyone successfully evacuated the building or not, providing crucial information that emergency responders can use to locate those who may be missing.

Unfortunately, information can also work against those evacuating in an emergency. We discussed this in another blog post, explaining how publicized assembly area maps can be a detriment in an active shooter situation. Instead, we suggest keeping these maps confidential, and only sharing them with designated building emergency leaders who have been trained to guide building occupants to safety.

Reverse Evacuations

What exactly is a reverse evacuation? Reverse evacuations are plans utilized in situations where it’s safer inside a building than outside of it. Often used in tandem with a lockdown or shelter-in-place plan, the goal is to move all students and staff into a designated internal area, safely and efficiently. We discussed this topic at length in an earlier blog post and shared some tips from Michael Dorn, an expert with nearly 40 years of campus safety experience. Some of his suggestions include:

Consider avoiding “code words” – Although code words may work flawlessly in drill situations, they tend to fail in real-time emergencies. When possible, convey instructions in plain speak to avoid confusion and communicate more effectively.

Have two lockdown procedures in place – Not all lockdowns need to be treated the same way. Prepare one procedure that allows teaching and classwork to continue, and another for more serious and imminent danger. It’s important to be prepared for both, but the likelihood is that you’re more likely to use the former.

Plan for lockdowns with a large number of visitors – School buildings frequently contain more than just students and staff. Be sure to have a lockdown plan in place to accommodate the increased number of visitors during situations such as extra-curricular events.

Reunification Planning

In the event of a school emergency, students might need to be evacuated to a safer location where they can be reunited with their parents. In a previous blog, we discussed the key elements of reunification maps and how they can help to organize the logistics of this process. We highlighted the Standard Reunification Method™ from the “I Love You Guys” Foundation. These innovators in crisis response and post-crisis reunification advise keeping things simple and organized:

  • Establish a parent check-in location.
  • Deliver the students to the student staging area.
  • Once students are on site, notify parents of the location.
  • “Greeters” direct parents/guardians to the parent check-in location and help them understand the process.
  • Parents/guardians complete Reunification Cards.
  • The “Reunifier” recovers students from the student staging area and delivers them to the parent.

As effective as these methods are, however, they’re only helpful if you plan ahead. Reunification is important, and like planning evacuation routes and conducting regular fire drills, it should be considered an early priority.

Building Maps: Experienced Professionals You Can Count On

Creating an emergency evacuation plan is an important first step, but it isn’t the whole picture—it’s important to prepare for the unexpected in order to keep your building occupants safe and accounted for. Here at Building Maps, our team of industry experts can provide you with the safety maps you need to protect those that matter most. Contact us today for a quick and free quote.

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