Emergency Evacuation Kits Provide Valuable Information During a Crisis

Clear and accurate information is not only a top commodity during a crisis, it is a prerequisite to successful resolution. Unfortunately, the information needed during a critical incident may be located in an area that is not safe to enter. For example, an administrator may need building schematics that are stored in an office area where a fire is raging out of control. While information can be stored where it is accessible on palm pilots or through secure Internet access, there is no substitute for information that can be readily accessed at the scene, in a hurry and in a format that can be shared with various responders. There is a simple solution in the form of an emergency evacuation kit.

The emergency evacuation kit serves as a portable information and equipment center for use by key personnel during an emergency. The kit is transported to the incident command post whenever there is an actual emergency or whenever a drill is conducted. The kit should contain the critical types of information and essential emergency gear that may be needed for a wide range of emergency situations. Through careful preplanning, a quality kit can be assembled for relatively little cost. While there are several vendors who sell commercial emergency evacuation kits, the best kits are usually those that have been assembled by administrators.

First, the most appropriate type of container should be selected. While there are a number of suitable containers, a backpack with wheels and a retractable handle usually works best. A good kit is easily portable, and the rolling backpack has the advantage of being carried by the handle, worn as a backpack or pulled along pavement by the handle. This makes the kit easy to transport under different weather conditions, over varying terrain or long distances. By standardizing the color, shape or type of container used in each building throughout the institution, the kits are easily recognizable by administrators and responding public safety officials in the event a kit is accidentally discarded in a chaotic situation. In addition, the costs involved in acquiring a large number of kits can often be reduced through bulk purchase.

Next, determine the contents of the emergency evacuation kit. There are certain standard items that should be included, such as a copy of the emergency operations plan as well as information that is unique to the institution. Here are a few other suggestions that can serve as a starting point:

  • building schematics,
  • a photo album providing a tour of the facility for use by public safety officials who are not familiar with the structure,
  • rolls of coins for use in making calls from pay telephones in the event that main phone lines become jammed,
  • emergency contact information for students and staff,
  • a small bullhorn to communicate with large numbers of evacuees,
  • a few high-visibility vests to identify key officials,
  • a flashlight with extra batteries,
  • extra batteries for portable phones and radios,
  • a small first aid kit,
  • extra master keys for use by public safety officials - with a sign-out sheet to track who keys are issued to,
  • a copy of the facility’s most recent site survey, and
  • an institution phone directory and after-hours contact information for staff.

    Other items that can be stored in the kit should be determined based on your unique situation. Keep in mind that key information can also be stored on disks and/or CDs and placed in the kit.

    Generally, it is best to have two kits stored in separate and secure locations in each facility in case the area where the main kit is located is directly impacted by the event. A primary and a back-up person should be identified as responsible for each kit to ensure that the kits are taken from the building if the primary designee is unable or unavailable to get the kit out. The kits should be taken to the first available public safety responder’s location if the incident command post location has not already been established. A staff member should remain in control of the kit at all times because of the sensitive nature of emergency contact information.

    Emergency evacuation kits have proven to be extremely valuable tools in times of crisis. Make sure that you have the critical information you will need in the event of an emergency by taking the time to maintain a properly stocked emergency evacuation kit.

    Michael S. Dorn is a school safety specialist with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. He can be reached at .

About the Author

Michael S. Dorn has helped conduct security assessments for more than 6,000 K-12 schools, keynotes conferences internationally and has published 27 books including Staying Alive – How to Act Fast and Survive Deadly Encounters. He can be reached at www.safehavensinternational.org.