Evacuation and Shelter Instructions for Residents of Large Apartment Buildings

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By Damian John Garino, B.S.

The problem was that during hazardous material incidents at the Wayne Township Fire Department in and around large apartment buildings not all of the occupants were being notified of the need to evacuate, or shelter in place. The purpose of this research was to develop a simple, effective Standard Operating Guideline that the hazardous materials incident command staff can use to notify the occupants of these buildings of the need to evacuate, or shelter in place. This project was conducted using action and historical research methods.

The following research questions were posed: (1) How do other fire departments notify occupants of the need to take specific actions during an emergency? (2) What methods are available to assist fire departments with getting instructions to occupants of large apartment buildings? (3) Is the portion of the population that cannot speak the English language significant enough to warrant special procedures? (4) How willing is the local media to assist in giving specific instructions to occupants of specific apartment buildings?

A survey was sent out to fifty-nine fire departments to see if they had procedures, as well as to see if they had access to the Emergency Alert System, Reverse 911, and community email systems. The local news media was interviewed to see what help they could provide. The literature at the National Fire Academy was also searched for ideas.

The results included finding that few other fire departments have procedures. Further, the broadcast media cannot be counted on to deliver the message.

The recommendations of this research included: (a) Use of the local high school FM radio station to provide full time fire department information during an emergency. (b) Implement the Reverse 911 system. (c) Alert the residents by going door-to-door.