KT Paloturvapalvelut led an extensive evacuation exercise in Salmisaari, Helsinki, on 29 March. The civil protection exercise involved Ilmarinen-owned properties and their property managers as well as other stakeholders.
The carefully prepared exercise started with a fire alarm at 10.10 a.m. The Salmisaarenranta 10 and Salmisaarenranta 11 properties are home to several companies and have a daily staff of up to 1500 people. The staff exited the buildings using the planned exit routes in about 8 minutes, which is a normal time for a building of this size.
The exercise was successful and the results will be used for developing safety
Kim Öhman, Director of KT Paloturvapalvelut, who led the exercise, now gives the background to the evacuation exercises and gives instructions for a controlled exit in case of crisis situations. In addition to Kim Öhman, the exercise was supervised by 15 safety experts from KT Paloturvapalvelut.
– Overall, the objective of the evacuation exercise was achieved. All companies operating in the building initiated their own evacuation measures and exited to the assembly areas. The staff got a feel for the practicalities of evacuation and the sound of the fire bell. For some it was the first time, but there were also some seasoned professionals involved, says Kim Öhman.
– The end of the exercise was announced quickly at the assembly points so that people did not have to wait for long periods in the cool and windy weather.
Fifteen observers from KT Paloturvapalvelut were present at the exercise to make observations at various locations on the property. In general, the evacuation was safe, but there were some anomalies. The deviations and observations are processed by KT Paloturvapalvelut using risk management tools, and suggestions for improvement are presented to the client.
– Many people were happy and pleased that these exercises are carried out. At the end of the exercise, the people responsible for safety in different companies thanked us for the organisation, says Kim Öhman.
Why are evacuation Exercises organised?
– Such large-scale exercises are rarely organised in Finland, so this was very useful for us and for everyone involved. Real estate companies have a duty under the Rescue Act to ensure the conditions for the evacuation of the property users, says Kim Öhman.
Situations requiring evacuation include fires and other dangerous or threatening situations involving persons or malicious alarms. The crises that have spread around the world in recent years mean that compared to previous years, more attention is being paid to rescue and civil protection issues and needs, he stresses.
What does an evacuation exercise typically cover?
– We monitor the overall success of the evacuation, the performance of the persons in charge of the building, the functioning of the exit routes and the conditions for safe evacuation in practice. We report our findings to the client for the development of exit safety and training.
– We measure the total time taken to evacuate and compare it with, among other things, the possible development of a fire, how much smoke would have been generated and how the fire would have developed in the worst case without the initial extinguishing measures. The response time of the emergency services for these Salmisaari properties is around 6–7 minutes, so it is good to have the exit measures in place, trained and practiced.
Exercises are exercises, but who will lead the evacuation in a crisis situation?
– In buildings and companies, there are designated persons in charge, but the responsibility is shared – in a real situation, you don’t leave a friend behind.
– In large properties, there is a constant turnover of staff, so it is important for companies to ensure that information on safety issues, for example, is passed on. Many employees may not even know what an alarm sounds like. It is also important to ensure who takes responsibility when the designated person in charge is on holiday or otherwise absent. The rise of remote working brings its own challenges.
In case of an alarm, do the following
– When the fire bells ring, initiate your own evacuation measures without delay. Always acknowledge the fire alarm. In an office environment, lock your own workstation if a computer is left on the desk. If the weather is cold, take a jacket if it is easily available, advises Kim Öhman.
– Make sure everyone is aware of the alarm, including in meeting rooms and social areas. People with reduced mobility should take shelter inside if exit routes cannot be used.
– Close all doors tightly behind you to prevent the possible spread of fire. In open offices, fire compartments are larger and tight closure is even more critical. Compartmentalized fire doors left open contribute to fire spread. The fire may get replacement air through them or the flue gases may be able to travel between the fire compartments. In the worst case, the situation can lead to a full fire phase, with the flue gases igniting.
– At the assembly point outside, check that everyone is present. Report to the rescue services if someone is missing. Also let them know which areas have been checked and which have not, concludes Öhman.
Photo: Kim Öhman led the evacuation exercise in Salmisaari
For more information on civil protection services, contact Kim Öhman, KT Paloturvapalvelut, +358 50 407 1397, firstname.lastname@example.org
Joona Timonen, Managing Director, KT Paloturvapalvelut Oy, email@example.com, +358 10 274 2181.