Definition of Evacuation in Emergencies

Final Exam “Evacuation is the relocation of threatened populations to places outside the hazard impact area,” writes Perry and Lindell (2007, p.118). According to the authors, evacuation can protect people during emergencies but for an evacuation plan to be effective warnings must be provided ahead of time, local authorities must have access to an effective warning system and emergency managers must provide adequate transportation with clear evacuation routes (Perry & Lindell, 2007, p.133). Today, while reading the textbook Emergency Planning (Perry & Lindell, 2007, p.138) (Table 5-2), I selected three special facilities for evacuation planning.

My choice includes the following categories: health related, penal and high-density residential facilities respectively. First, the area of health-related facilities includes: hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living and mental health facilities. When developing evacuation plans for these critical facilities emergency planners might encounter potential challenges depending on the location and demographics of a particular population, the size of a facility or whether it belongs to the public or private sector. (Spearo, 2020, Week 3, p. 46).

For example, during class, the Town of Davie’s emergency manager Mr. J. Antapasis stated that there are disadvantages when working with the public sector, because these organizations could be politically inclined or may be reluctant to change. He also added that working with the public sector has some advantages, such as continuous plan improvements and their willingness to serve the community (Antapasis, 2020, p.7).

Also, when developing evacuation plans for hospitals or nursing homes the emergency planner must consider several factors such as patients’ gender, language, mobility, disabilities and income (Spearo, 2020, Week 3, p. 16). Furthermore, from my experience working in healthcare facilities I would say that each facility is unique regardless whether it belongs to a privately managed healthcare system or if the institution is administered by a state or federal system.

I believe that emergency planners must also be sensitive to cultural or religious issues when developing evacuation plans to make them more effective. For example, I am aware of religions which prevent individuals from touching electrical devices on specific days and any evacuation plan should consider those factors

. These facilities could also have patients who are not familiar with the English language or may not be familiar with new tech devices. The candid feedback from patients, staff and caregivers could be very useful for the evacuation planning development because all stakeholders will be able to suggest which notification system will be more suitable for them. The issue of transportation of patients during evacuations is also critical for special facilities. Indeed, Perry and Lindell (2007, p.137) stated a very important issue which is to take into consideration patients who are not able to walk or those who may need to use assistive devices to move around or to exit the facility.

In addition, as a rehabilitation counselor I am aware of patients who have cognitive, intellectual or physical disabilities as well. In such cases, I would suggest that the evacuation plan includes placing a standard colored symbol on a visible location next to the bed or room to let the first responders know the type of disability or the patients’ form of mobility, such as a wheelchair or a walker. It will indicate what type of assistance and transportation will be required and consequently facilitate the process of evacuation during emergencies.

I had worked with patients who were not able to follow evacuation directions or to understand the warnings. Often these patients panic during emergencies and recognizing these symbols by staff will help them during evacuation. Moreover, evacuation plans must also consider the issue of health facilities that are pet friendly.

Some patients may have service dogs or emotional support pets. The emergency planner should include in their plan specific directives for staff and responders on how to handle pet transportation during evacuation in a way that pets are also transported out of the facility with their owners. Most patients consider their pets as essential for continuance.

Evacuation drills should be tailored to specific facilities and must be practiced constantly to prepare everyone through mutual collaboration. Thus, including the assistance of volunteers from the community could provide additional support to staff at some point during the evacuations. Second, I also selected penal or correctional facilities including: county jails, state and federal prisons or detention camps.

During my experiences working as a correctional officer I encountered several challenges during evacuations because we did not have enough staff to conduct adequate evacuations. I believe that when developing evacuation plans emergency managers would have potential challenges because of security issues. For example, all correctional facilities have strict evacuation protocols during emergencies or natural disasters. Indeed, emergency planners should consider all safety hazards to ensure public safety while addressing correctional staff and inmate safety as well.

According to Perry and Lindell (2007, p.137) “there are populations, such as incarcerated individuals who depend on staff to be transported during evacuations.” As a result of budget cuts and staff shortages in correctional facilities evacuation plans could present a substantial challenge for emergency planners.

However, emergency planners could incorporate new concepts such as creating emergency response teams from civilians who had former law enforcement training or are retired correctional officers to respond during emergencies and natural disasters. These teams could receive ongoing trainings and could be activated only during emergencies to supply correctional facilities with the additional and needed staff to help during evacuations. Another suggestion will be to provide members of these teams with specialized training in driving special vehicles to transport inmates who are not able to walk or those who use assistive medical devices.

During evacuations, inmates could wear digital bracelets to allow responders to locate and identify individuals with medical issues and also evacuate them faster. I would suggestthat correctional staff could use mapping signals to be able to locate in real time those who need to be evacuated first during major emergencies and disasters. Through applying these new approaches correctional institutions could also reduce costs and improve response time.

I recalled during the second week of class, a discussion about the planning process and how these developments vary among communities (Spearo, 2020, Week 2, p. 2). I would suggest evacuation plans that are tailored to the uniqueness of the facility and to consider appropriate shelter in place if evacuation is not possible through maintaining the safety of everyone (Spearo, 2020, Week 3, p. 16).

According to Perry and Lindell (2007, p.170) “protection in place could be used as a last resort when structures provide adequate safety,” it may be the best alternative during some emergencies when time is an issue. Third, I selected high density residential facilities including: hotels, apartments or condominiums, mobile home parks and dormitories. In the case of facilities such as hotels there might be several challenges when emergency planners attempt to develop evacuation plans. “Depending on the season, tourists can be a significant source of transients,” writes Perry and Lindell (2007 p.139).

I believe that all communities throughout the nation must include tourists in their evacuation plans during emergencies. Often, tourists lack of understanding English and hotel staff lack of adequate training on what actions to take during evacuations. My suggestion will be to create trainings and drills for hotel staff sponsored by municipalities and state agencies and to make drills mandatory for all hotel staff.

In addition, I would suggest strategically placing sirens in areas frequently visited by tourists and to activate public unrestricted telephones during emergencies to ensure that transients can call relatives. Furthermore, some apartment building managers fail to effectively communicate hazards to residents.

My suggestion will be to create a team of community responders who could be trained and prepared to assist residents with evacuation plans. Members of the community responder teams could periodically check on these residents if available. Many residents could be isolated without electricity, food and water for many days. The same issues are confronted by those who reside in mobile home parks and dormitories. In the case of mobile homes, I would suggest notification systems which could include using sirens and providing residents with battery operated radios before evacuations.

Finally, dormitories for students could also be at-risk during emergencies and emergency planners must have feasible evacuation plans (Perry & Lindell, 2007, p.138). My suggestion will include creating a list of local organizations and members of the community to provide provisional shelter for students during emergencies.