Planning for Campus Evacuations Takes Careful Consideration
When an emergency strikes on campus, the need for security to call for an evacuation could occur at any time. Incident command needs to be implemented to assess the size of any emergency situation with accuracy and efficiency to determine whether an evacuation is necessary.
Types of Evacuations
There are four different types of evacuations:
- Mass Evacuations: These are the largest types of evacuation and usually involve evacuating almost an entire community.
- Large-scale Evacuations: These types of evacuation deal with evacuating significant portions of a campus.
- Area Evacuations: These are used to evacuate areas larger than a single site, such as a football stadium.
- Site Evacuations: These are the most common types of evacuation and are limited to the site of the incident only.
For implementations of site and area evacuations, a few different key points must be kept in mind. For campus incident command to respond to an evacuation situation efficiently and successfully, it must determine four elements: the size of the evacuation area, routes that will be used for leaving the area, the duration of time that refugees will be displaced, and the location of collection centers.
- The size of the evacuation area will be determined either by incident control or a planning section under the National Incident Management System. Dorms, stadiums, and well-known corridors make great boundaries for the edges of an evacuation area. Using geographic boundaries also helps more effectively communicate the size of the evacuation area to the student body and public. Maps of the evacuation area should be disseminated to the students and faculty.
- University law enforcement is often given the task of planning evacuation routes during emergencies because it can dispatch traffic control to areas that might be prone to traffic jams. The planned evacuation routes will have to be communicated to the student body as quickly as possible to avoid stampedes.
- Incident command must determine the duration of evacuations and provide the information to the public. A general rule to follow is two-hour displacement for site evacuations and four-hour displacement for area evacuations.
- Incident control needs to establish collection centers for refugees to gather once the crisis is over.
For smaller site evacuations, in cases of fire, evacuees need to be moved upwind from the fire. Security may be needed in case of thieves or terror threats. No evacuees may be allowed to go back inside before it is safe, and, if possible, they must grab everything they might need before they leave. Pet owners must consider a plan to save their pets.
For larger area evacuations, there will likely be hundreds of evacuees, which complicates the evacuation process. If the situation grows in complexity, such as a shooting, incident control will switch to a unified command structure. Players in this structure could include people from the school systems, fire department, law enforcement, or public works. These players will be responsible for determining collection shelter locations, notifying evacuees when they can go home, and establishing a public information officer.
Campus evacuations can be distressing, but proper planning will ensure they are carried out smoothly.