Emergency Situations and Situational Awareness

Protus3 Security Program Development

Most of us have practiced fire drills at work and have thought about where to take shelter from a tornado when at home. The tornados and severe weather hit North Carolina on a Saturday, a day when many people are away from work and home. In general, we spend most of our time at work or at home. Hopefully, we work for a company or organization that has a sound emergency plan in place and makes employees aware of that plan. If not, our work location is an environment with which we are familiar. Most of us know where the emergency exits are or the location of a good place to take shelter. What do you do when there is an emergency situation and you are not at work or at home? What would you do or where would you go in a store, restaurant, church, library, or auditorium?

In this case, the concern is incidents that require an immediate response, which in our area would include fire, flash flood, or tornado as the most common incidents. Unfortunately, an active shooter is also a concern, especially in a publicly accessible space. There are also incidents that are less common but still require a response, such as a power failure or an “out-of-the-blue” event like a vehicle crashing into the building. With all of these incidents, there are basically two choices: stay and take shelter or leave the area.

For a fire, a flash flood, or possibly an active shooter, leaving the area is the first best choice. Where is the closest exit in the opposite direction of the threat? If that route is blocked or inaccessible, where is the next useable exit? Moving in a direction away from the threat is sufficient for a fire or an active shooter, but for a flash flood, also move to higher ground. Depending on the threat, simply leaving the building may not be enough. Do not stop moving until you have reached a location that is safe.

For a tornado or other severe weather, find somewhere to take shelter. This is also a response to an active shooter if leaving the area is not an option. Where is an interior space with no windows? Where is the most structurally sound area of the building? How do you get to this space? Can this space be locked or secured if needed? When taking shelter, it is important to retain some contact with the situation outside the shelter to determine when the threat has passed.

The point of this exercise is to practice situational awareness. Know your surroundings. If you are in a facility that has a good emergency plan, you will be better able to follow directions. If you are in a location that has no emergency plan, you will have your own plan.

At this time, it is not clear if the reaction of the employees at the Lowe’s in Sanford was the result of the quick thinking of an individual or of preparation and training provided by the company. What is clear is that lives were saved because someone considered how to react in that situation before it occurred.

Plan. Protect. Prosper.

Protus3 specializes in security system design, security consulting, corporate investigations and other investigative services. Partner with Protus3 and we will examine each situation to identify threats and develop solutions for your best outcome.

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