What could stop you from getting out of a building? There are the visible barriers – stairs, crowded areas, a blocked passage. But there are also less visible barriers which you might not have considered.
Our new Emergency Manager Catherine Strods wants to push PEEPs – Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans. A PEEP is a document you create to let others, such as emergency workers, managers, and wardens, know what you need to get out of an emergency alive.
It’s obvious for someone in a wheelchair that they need help getting down stairs. But do you know how you would cope mentally in an emergency situation?
“Anxiety is one of the biggest barriers; people freeze and will not budge,” cautions Strods. “They can be as difficult to move as someone in a wheelchair and yet people aren’t planning for it.”
If Strods sounds like a psychologist, that’s because she is. Though she’s not practising, Strods completed a postgraduate degree in psychology and then veered towards crisis and emergency management. Today, the emergency management consultant of seven years puts people at the centre of her planning. “People act so differently. You can never be sure how you will react until you’re in a situation,” she says.
With PEEPS though, Strods says, “We can identify what people need and what we can do for them.”
Once complete, the confidential document is kept with the Emergency Manager (Strods herself) and the person assigned to assist those in need. In many cases this will be the fire warden. If an emergency ensues, all PEEPs are given to the first emergency workers on scene enabling them to quickly and easily pinpoint the buildings and floors where people may need extra help.
At a minimum, a PEEP outlines a planned accessible route to safety, the person who will provide assistance and what kind of training may be required, and any equipment needed to assist in an evacuation. It also ensures the PEEP is tested by being included in regular emergency drills.
“We want people to feel safe and know they’re going to be as safe as everyone else,” she says.
“Remember, there’s always someone you can talk to.”
For more information about PEEPS, visit uts.ac/2vCz9hv or to inquire about mental health training sessions, email firstname.lastname@example.org