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Vol. LXII, No. 8
April 16, 2010

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ORS Urges Familiarity with Evacuation Plans, Drills

The ability to evacuate your building safely in the event of an emergency is critical. Evacuation drills are required twice a year by HHS and are governed by the NIH Occupant Evacuation Plan. All employees should be familiar with building evacuation procedures and cooperate with evacuation staff during both drills and in emergency situations. The Occupant Emergency Coordinator for your building can discuss evacuation protocols if you have questions.

The ORS Division of Emergency Preparedness and Coordination manages the evacuation plan for NIH, which includes all on- and off-campus buildings. While actual emergencies can occur at any time, evacuation drills are scheduled only in spring and fall, when the weather is mild.

Emergencies such as fires, smoke and accidental release of hazardous materials are risks we all face at NIH. Last year, the NIH Fire Department responded to 2,174 emergency incidents on the Bethesda campus. Seventeen were actual fires; most were minor, resulting in no structural damage.

The NIH Occupant Evacuation Plan contains special provisions for people with temporary or permanent disabilities who may need assistance in evacuating and for the hearing-impaired who may not easily detect audible evacuation alarms.

A relatively new initiative called shelter-in-place is intended to provide occupant protection when conditions outside are hazardous and when remaining inside the building is safer than exiting. Events such as severe weather could trigger a decision to shelter-in-place. It is designed as a short-term solution, lasting from 15 minutes to several hours. In cases where the outside air may be contaminated, engineering staff will shut down air intakes to prevent or minimize contaminated air from entering buildings. Shelter-in-place staff have been trained to assist other building occupants during this situation; many buildings have supplies on hand (radios, flashlights, etc.).

For more information on building evacuation procedures and sheltering-in-place, including training, or to find the Occupant Emergency Coordinator in your building, visit You may also call the Division of Emergency Preparedness and Coordination at (301) 496-1985 with any questions.

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