According to the Australian Standard (AS3745-2010, pp. 27, Clause 5.3), the Emergency Planning Committee will determine the number of Emergency Control Organisation (ECO) members based on:
- The size of the facility
- The number of occupants and visitors
- The installed occupant warning equipment
- The fire engineered and life safety features of the facility
But how do I apply these considerations? Start by asking these questions:
The size of the facility
How long will it take to notify everyone in the facility of a possible danger? How long will it take for everyone to move to the nominated Assembly Areas quickly and calmly? How much physical space needs to be searched by trained warden teams?
The number of occupants and visitors
How many people need to be moved to the nominated Assembly Areas and accounted for? Are all people on site aware of the facility evacuation procedures and what to do in the event of alarm? How many visitors/customers/clients etc onsite at any given time that will need special instruction on how to exit and where to go? Are there people onsite that need special assistance to evacuate?
The installed occupant warning equipment.
Can the Chief Warden be heard clearly from one end of the facility to the other? If not, is there some type of occupant waring system like, Public Address or audible alert systems, megaphone etc that can be used to notify everyone of an emergency? Does everyone know what to do when they hear the warning?
The fire engineered and life safety features of the facility.
Does the building have a fire panel? Is training provided for operating the fire panel? Do wardens and ECO members know how to interact with the installed fire safety systems? Does your facility evacuate on alarm or do you search for the cause of alarm before calling for evacuation?
Searching for the cause of alarm, and only evacuating if a danger is identified is a viable option for facilities with the appropriate installed fire safety systems, however this option requires the ECO to initiate a more complex response and therefore will need sufficient members trained to a sufficient standard to:
- Respond to the fire panel
- Operate/interact with the panel to determine the location of the possible danger
- Carry out an immediate search for cause of the activated alarm
- Commence appropriate emergency response if fire/danger is discovered
- Commence false alarm procedures if no danger is discovered
Your Emergency Planning Committee (EPC) should conduct a thorough emergency risk assessment and site profile analysis to determine the number of ECO members required. Remember to allow for all possible contingencies including, leave, secondment, travel etc.