Emergency Evacuation Kits

The emergency evacuation kit is a portable container that allows key campus officials to easily take critical information with them should they need to evacuate a facility or manage a crisis situation inside the facility. In short, the emergency evacuation kit should contain any information administrators and responding public safety officials might need to manage a crisis situation if they are unable to enter the affected facility, administrative wing. or multiple facilities due to the nature of the crisis. This kit should be extremely portable and easy to use under extreme stress. Though other means exist to store crucial emergency preplanning information offsite and these should also be utilized, the emergency evacuation kit remains an invaluable crisis management tool for institutions of higher learning.

The kit should be kept in the building administrator’s office with other emergency equipment such as emergency flashlights and portable communications equipment. The kit becomes the portable “command center” for key officials during the crucial first few minutes of a critical situation. Of course, the manner in which kits are stored will vary based on the unique nature of the campus organization.

The administrator or a designated staff member should always take the kit with him or her when the building is evacuated. It is important to remember that even seasoned professionals can lose much of their cognitive reasoning ability during the high stress of a crisis. Practicing simple emergency functions like removing the emergency evacuation kit is crucial to ingraining an appropriate response during high-stress situations. By going a step further and actually utilizing the contents of the kit during drills and exercises, administrators will be even more likely to function well under extreme pressure. This approach will also likely reveal any need for additional items or information in the kit.

Though a top-flight training, drill, and exercise program can help train staff to function more effectively under stress, it is still a good idea to design the kit and its contents so it is easy for staff to utilize in the event of degraded fine motor skills. Fine motor skills begin to deteriorate when the heart rate exceeds 115 beats per minute. As this often occurs under stress, the kit’s design and contents should account for the deterioration of fine motor skills, such as unzipping a pouch. Adding a large zipper pull could make a considerable difference.

The primary kit should be stored out of sight in a part of the building remote from the main office. The kit should be stored in a manner where an offender, such as a burglar or a hostage taker, cannot easily access it. A second, duplicate kit stored in an offsite location — such as the university police department — is advisable and likewise should be stored in a reasonably secure fashion.
While commercial kits are available, perhaps some of the best kits are those that have been assembled by astute campus crisis team members. Rolling backpacks with a carry handle and a collapsible extension handle are probably the best type of container. For a fraction of the cost of commercial kits, higher education officials can often produce superior kits, particularly when they use standardized kits and contents purchased in bulk for each facility. Using a standardized kit also makes it possible for emergency response personnel and crisis team members to spot a kit that has been dropped or left unattended during a chaotic evacuation.

Normally, both kits should be quickly taken to the incident command post whenever students and staff are evacuated to ensure that critical information can be provided to public safety responders. The lead campus administrator should assist the public safety official who is in charge of the incident scene by making that person aware of the contents of the kit. Of course, the kit should remain in the immediate custody of a campus official. 

A properly assembled kit that contains regularly updated information can help administrators and public safety responders dramatically improve the manner in which crisis situations are handled. While campus emergencies are chaotic under the best of circumstances, the information in an emergency kit can go a long way towards making the process much more orderly and effective.

Emergency evacuation kits are a relatively inexpensive preparedness measure that can dramatically enhance the ability of administrators to respond to crisis situations. More importantly, the information and equipment they contain could save lives in a crisis.

Michael Dorn
serves as the executive director for Safe Havens International, Inc., an IRS-approved, non-profit safety center. He has authored and co-authored more than 20 books on campus safety. He can be reached through the Safe Havens Website at www.safehavensinternational.org.

About the Author

Michael Dorn serves as the executive director for Safe Havens International, Inc., an IRS-approved, nonprofit safety center. He has authored and co-authored more than 20 books on campus safety. He can be reached through the Safe Havens website at www.safehavensinternational.org.