Getting out in an emergency

Getting out in an emergency

Oct 01, 2006

OSHA doesn't specifically require you to post an evacuation diagram at your practice. Yet both the Fire Prevention Standard and the Employee Emergency Plan Standard require you to develop a plan that includes a description of the evacuation procedures your staff members should follow. And, as the old saying goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words." So why not develop an exit diagram? It's much easier than explaining your evacuation procedures in writing.

Of course, you might say clinic layouts are usually easy to learn and once someone has worked in a place more than a couple of days, he or she knows the way out. But that's shaky logic because you never know when an emergency will happen and it could be someone's first day. Plus, we tend to forget simple, basic things under extreme duress. Something as simple as a diagram could be the saving difference for a staff member who's temporarily confused in an extreme situation.

Putting lines on paper

An exit diagram is basically a floor plan showing the locations of the exits. It can be a simple hand-drawn plan or more detailed and to scale.

Introduce your exit diagram to your team members during a staff meeting. And then post it in a sufficient number of places in the hospital so that employees can orient themselves and escape easily, including:

  • staff break room or lounge;
  • treatment room or activity center;
  • at least once on each floor; and
  • anywhere the direction of travel isn't readily apparent, such as areas with many doors and no windows.

Philip Seibert
Philip Seibert, CVT, is an author, speaker, and consultant with Veterinary Practice Consultants in Calhoun, Tenn. Send questions or comments to