Scan and Assess


That’s the number associated with the earthquake which struck greater Los Angeles Sunday morning. Pretty small. It’s only after a large seismic event hits that people look back and say, “Hey that 3.9 was a Preshock… Why didn’t anyone warn us that there was going to be an earthquake.”

I have a checklist that goes through my mind. Most of us visualize disaster preparedness at our homes, but chances are, you won’t be at home. You’ll be out doing something mundane. I wanted to share this week with some of the things I do when ever I step into a building. Whether it be a restaurant, store, mall or school. My greatest nightmare is being somewhere where there are a great number of people. A fair, sporting event, or concert. The more people amassed together increases the number of stupid you encounter. As the bell curve expands the part of the curve with stupid people grows to an unacceptable number. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not worth the risk of being around those people, But sometimes there’s nothing you can do and you must attend some type of an event.

A few months ago I was at The Grove with my family and my parents when there was a bomb threat. A full evacuation was ordered without any plan or organized evacuation. It was the nightmare scenario, people were trying to leave the parking structure while attendants were still trying to collect cash and still letting cars enter the garage. You’ll never be able to predict where or when something can happen.

When going to an event or mall, or building here’s what I do:

– Know the location, what part of town is it in. What are the major routes for evacuation and more importantly, what are the secondary routes? Neighborhoods, fire roads cutting through wilderness preserves (it may be illegal to drive through these areas, but I’d rather be alive and pay a fine later.) If there’s a traffic jam and my families safety is at risk a chain and a padlock on a fire road isn’t going take a second thought, I will be utilizing that route.

-Know where the closest hospital is, including urgent care facilities. In a pinch, they’ll do.

-Know where the closest police and fire department are.

-When entering a building quickly scan the layout of the building. Make note of the floor plan. Know where the fire exits, elevators, roof access, stairwells, employee only doors, bathrooms.

-Figure out what the best route from your location to an outside safe location and to your vehicle.

-Know where fire extinguishers are.

-Scan the crowd, who is attending this event. Who are the greatest risks in the crowd? Know who these people are and make sure they are not between you and the exit.

-If there are windows, what will it take to break them to create an exit. If they are breakable, what item do you need to make it happen? Make sure you have in mind where the tool needed to break the window is within your sight and not further than a “tuck and roll” to that item… A fire extinguisher, waiter’s rolling cart or tray holder, table, etc…

-Look at the layout of the structure, which direction will the crowd surge go when panic ensues. Look for alternatives to those choke points.

Thinking ahead and running this check list isn’t difficult, it’s just something you need to start doing. Make it a game for yourself. Mentally check off how far items are from your position. How many doorways are there between myself and the fire escape. How many fire extinguishers are there between the entrance and the store I’m in. Before too long these things will become second nature and this checklist will just happen without you having to put any effort into it.

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