A fire at lunchtime today led to the evacuation of the European Commission building in Brussels. No-one was hurt in the incident, although the building is expected to be closed until at least Tuesday. There was initial confusion about the source of the fire, as the ventilation system carried smoke and fumes down to the basement, but it appears that the source was in a technical area with significant electrical cabling. The basement press area was filling with smoke for some 20 minutes before the alarm sounded.
So What Does This Mean for You?
Fire and other hazards can lead to buildings being evacuated, with even a short term evacuation causing disruption to business. Do you really want your staff to be stood outside wondering what the next step will be? Even whilst you try to gather more information regarding the alert, think about whether you want your staff to congregate outside, or if there are suitable premises in the area that offer cover and facilities, and facilititate communications as all staff would be together. Taking the example of todays fire, which occurred at lunchtime, consider whether you would want your staff to be able to move to alternate premises more quickly, or other options such as letting them go home; for the latter, ensure that you have methods of communicating so that staff can be contacted with updates as necessary.
For continuing your business, a Business Impact Analysis will identify critical activities that need to maintained, and what resources will be required so, for example, will identify staff and what they need to be able to fulfill essential functions. Simple plans containing details such as key contact numbers for stakeholders will enable effective communications. Training and exercising staff and management will give confidence in the plans, and will ensure that staff know what to do once they have safely evacuated the building.
Also, when planning, consider the longer term. Whilst there may have been limited damage to the building, a restriction of access to IT and documentation may have an impact on your ability to continue to provide a service. Consider remote access and monitoring for IT equipment. Duplication and off-site storage of critical documents may help with access to information.