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Gridlocked: Making Decisions During a Mass Evacuation

10 Jan. 2018 Posted by aadams

Carol Hill, FEI Operations Specialist, Crisis Management

Our organization recently provided support during an active shooter incident at a shopping mall. A caller, while on the line with FEI, noted that local authorities and mall security were evacuating the mall. We advised the caller to get to a safe location away from the area.

The caller made the decision to head to their car—they wanted to get home. Unfortunately, so did the shoppers, the store keepers and the general public.

Are you familiar with what happens when a NFL game or theater performance ends? All the individuals who attended head for the exits simultaneously. It may take 15 minutes just to get outside of the venue.

This type of mass exit is what the caller was experiencing, causing gridlock and producing a potentially unsafe situation for those trying to evacuate the mall.

During a crisis where there are multiple individuals indirectly involved, it is important to reflect on the following:

The safest option may not be the safest option. In theory, getting to your vehicle and driving away may be one of the safer option. However, when there is gridlock and you are unable to drive anywhere, this option can become increasingly unsafe.

Have a Plan B. Just as there should be multiple egress points or evacuation routes for any given environment, having a secondary action plan for escape should be considered. In the case of the mall incident, the caller evacuated the area on foot and was able to get farther away than if they had remained in traffic.

Know when to hide. In the event you are in your vehicle and unable to escape due to traffic, idling the vehicle or turning it off and keeping your head down may help hide you from the active shooter.

Communication is key. Remember to keep your phone on your person. As soon as it is safe, notify someone of your whereabouts.

A crisis can occur at any time, and remembering to stay calm can help you make the decisions that may save your life.

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