When It Comes to Emergency Preparedness, There’s a New Word FMs Should Know:
Velocity Risk Planning
Recently in Chicago, an extreme weather event swept through the city, sending temperatures into subzero readings in about three hours. Although they were aware it was going to happen, many Facility Managers were caught off guard by how quickly temperatures dropped.
To address the rapidly unfolding situation in one facility, Facility Managers took to the public address system to instruct all tenants they must leave the building within one hour. Further, they were told to take the stairs and not the elevators to speed the exit. The FMs then announced the building would be closed for at least 24 hours, if not longer, so tenants should take with them whatever belongings they would need during that period.
This was an example of emergency preparedness. The FMs wanted all building users out of the building, and by giving them one hour, they were assured this could be handled in a quick, safe, and orderly manner. No rushing, panicking, pushing, or shoving. Just a steady exit so that everyone could leave as quickly and as safely as possible.
This is a best-case scenario. Now, what happens when the emergency event is totally unexpected? What if it unfolds in seconds, not hours, causing panic and fear?
An example of such an emergency is if an armed assailant is in the building. Fifteen or 20 years ago, such events were not even on many FMs’ radar screens, but today they must be. In fact, there is even a word to describe the emergency planning that must be put in place in such a situation and that is “velocity,” referring to how fast such situations can unfold.
Having an armed assailant in the building is entirely different from any weather emergency. Even if the emergency is in response to a fire alarm going off, FMs typically know how to calmly instruct everyone to exit the facility, ensuring there is no panic in the process.
Velocity risk planning is much more complicated by comparison. FMs will need to address a range of issues when they prepare their velocity risk plan, including those presented here.
Should tenants stay or leave the facility?
Panic is a normal reaction in the case of an armed assailant on the premises. Should FMs instruct their tenants to leave as quickly as possible using any means or to stay locked in their offices? Either decision can lead to unforeseen consequences.
In one situation, building users started rushing down stairways to exit the building. A man dropped his cell phone and tried to recover it. In the process, he was seriously injured by others rushing down the stairs and caused other people to fall, resulting in more injuries. Velocity planning requires that Facility Managers have an A/B and even a C plan in place, to help address the emergency as it unfolds.
The facility is Now a Crime Scene.
Once the event is over, building users may be blocked from using the building for several hours, days, or even weeks. What then? A velocity plan may include ways Facility Managers can help their tenants keep their businesses up and running in another location until the investigation is completed. It even may include offering counseling services.
Most of us do not want to think about such an incident. However, they do happen, and because of this, Facility Managers must be prepared for them.
In many ways, velocity planning is no different from any other type of emergency planning. FMs must assess the situation, the risks involved, and the short- and long-term repercussions, then establish policies to address these scenarios.