Emergency Evacuation Practices

Emergency Evacuation Practices

Q: We had a discussion at one of our clinic safety meetings about the practice of placing an "X" with chalk on the patient exam rooms in the event of a fire to identify which rooms were checked for patients before exiting the building. Is this still a recommended practice for evacuation? Do fire fighting personnel look for these "X" marks? Some of our clinics still do this while others do not. We would like to standardize our clinics on this issue.

A: This is one of those concerns for which there is really no correct or incorrect response and ultimately should hinge on a cooperative review of the practice with your local fire departments.

The practice, in and of itself, is perfectly fine so long as it is understood and useful to whoever might need to verify whether a space is occupied.

There are certainly organizations that have used chalk markings on doors to identify that the occupants have been evacuated, and others for which their comfort level, relative to someone re-entering the room and perhaps being overcome, led them to use a piece of tape between the door and the door frame, which would (at least in enough instances to ensure a measure of comfort) be intact if the room had not been entered, and pulled away from the door/frame if someone had gone in.

Standardization is generally a good thing, but in this case, if you are dealing with multiple municipal fire departments, they may have a preference that does not lend itself to the standardization of this practice.