The Importance of Digitising Floor Plans
Horrifying incidents that have rocked our society and the world have made their way into our homes via the news. Among the local incidents that come to mind are the Quakers Hill Nursing Home fire and the Lindt Café terrorist incident. Internationally, the horrific Grenfell Tower fire claimed more than 70 lives.
Some have promoted coronial inquests resulting in recommendations for improvement in a quest to prevent similar incidents in the future.
Aside from the tragedy involved, each of the previously mentioned incidents had something else in common: a lack of current building floor plans and emergency plans. First responders were left without access to critical information required to effectively run a rescue operation. Let’s examine how this impacted each of the buildings involved:
- Lindt Café siege – First responders waited four hours for a floor plan of the café on file with Sydney City Council. Without access to the document, they were hindered from comprehending the basics and potential for entering and evacuating the café. Notes slipped under an evacuation door at the back of the café by a hostage were unnoticed by emergency officials who were unaware of the door’s existence.
- Quakers Hill fire – Firefighters were unable to locate a fire hydrant that was installed for specific use at the building. They ended up using a hydrant on the other side of the street, which limited the reach of their equipment. Access to an evacuation and emergency plan could have aided their efforts.
- Grenfell Tower fire – Three years have passed since this horrific fire claimed the lives of 72 people and destroyed 151 homes in the tower and surrounding area. Plans were unavailable to first responders, complicating their ability to effectively fight the fire. The poor marking of levels on fire stairs made it difficult to navigate through the burning building to evacuate and rescue occupants. The first three levels of the tower were laid out differently than the others, complicating the ability to move quickly and safely.
Would your buildings and their occupants fare any better if faced with an emergency? Would emergency personnel be able to access building schematics and emergency evacuation plans quickly to aid in their response?
Best Practices for Emergency Preparation
Investigations into these emergencies produced recommendations to ensure similar situations never happen again.
In the Quakers Hill coronial inquest, the following recommendations were made:
- That the NSW Government provide funding for the instalment of mobile data terminals in Fire and Rescue NSW vehicles
- That Fire and Rescue NSW develop a digital database of pre-incident plans for use in major structural fires
The development of an integrated intelligence system that “allows selected officers to secure access to all information platforms and to record and share operational decisions” was made by the coroner in the coronial inquest of the Lindt Café incident.
Phase I of the Grenfell Inquiry from October 2019 recommended the following:
- To provide their local fire and rescue services with up-to-date plans in both paper and electronic form of every floor of the building identifying the location of key fire safety systems
- To ensure that the building contains a premises information box, the contents of which must include a copy of the up-to-date floor plans and information about the nature of any lift intended for use by the fire and rescue services
- That all fire and rescue services be equipped to receive and store electronic floor plans and to make them available to incident commanders and control room managers
Digitised Floor Plans Provide the Best Solution to Common Issues
We present this information as a cautionary tale for building owners and businesses who are confident the data for their buildings is easily accessible by Emergency Services. Do not assume CCTV footage, floor plans, and other critical information for accessing your buildings in an emergency is provided to first responders. Insist on a solution that works: digitised floor plans.
Australian Compliance Management recommends digitising floor plans to deliver better situational awareness to first responders. Our clients are provided access to an online platform that delivers all data collected about evacuation and emergency response plans directly to first responders. This service is a secure way to store and provide current plans directly to those who need it without delay. NSW Fire and Rescue and Queensland Fire and Emergency Services use this technology for its quick and accurate creation of high-quality, spatially accurate digital floor plans. All data is securely stored per ISO 27001.
The platform also delivers site-specific emergency procedures as a learning outcome to provide another level of safety and compliance. Data such as the Warden Structure of a facility, contact names and numbers for Emergency Control Organisation members, and the Emergency Evacuation Plan are easily accessible through this platform. Building occupants are provided with site-specific instructions for evacuation and alternative solutions building engineers have specified for the structure.