Earthquakes, fires, floods, industrial accidents, and violence all affect the workplace. Being prepared to respond as soon as an incident occurs helps save lives. That’s why it’s crucial to prepare your people by having an evacuation plan for employees, visitors, and contractors on a worksite.
Plans, training, drills, and digital systems that facilitate the evacuation of people on your site to safety are increasingly saving lives. But while OSHA specifies that most businesses need an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) in place, many workplaces are still not prepared for an emergency evacuation. But the tools integrated into Sine’s visitor management system can all be used in the increasingly important process called “employee mustering” (or “emergency mustering”).
What is employee mustering?
Employee mustering systems usher your employees, visitors, and contractors to safety during emergency situations. Ideally, they allow building or safety managers to keep track of the people who enter a building or worksite and provide an accurate and up-to-date list of who is present and where they’re located as soon as an emergency scenario occurs. And as you might imagine, this type of system doesn’t work well with paper sign-in sheets or evacuation routes simply posted on the wall.
Minimally, emergency mustering systems can use VMS tools such as employee and guest check-in data, tracking information, and emergency SMS messaging in order to:
- Count and locate visitors inside a building when a crisis occurs.
- Guide your people to a designated safe space where they can stay protected as long as the crisis lasts.
- Take a roll call of the people who made it to a safe space and provide a list of those who are unaccounted for.
- Send an all-clear signal when the danger has passed, so the building’s occupants can either re-enter or leave the site without additional risk.
What is a mustering station, and why are they important for emergency mustering?
A crucial part of employee mustering is creating an evacuation point/safe meet-up space, aka a muster station. Ideally, this is where employees will head as soon as they’re alerted to an emergency. These stations may be permanent installations, or they may be mobile and change depending on the emergency. Potential mustering points are typically identified during risk assessments and forming emergency response plans, and they need to be easily identifiable to workers and visitors either through signage or wayfinding technology.
Performing safety drills is a crucial part of your emergency planning. But in a true emergency, people may not always remember their training, or some mustering stations may be compromised. The benefit of having a portable electronic mustering solution is that it can be set up immediately in the aftermath of a crisis, and tools from your visitor management system (such as wayfinding apps and automatic alerts via SMS) can guide employees, customers, visitors, contractors, and others to the safest possible place in that moment.
Mustering stations can also be equipped to take an electronic roll call when people check in so you get a sense of who is safe and who may still be in the building. This can be an enormous help to first responders. For example, with Sine’s VMS, emergency workers can track signals from the phones or ID badges of anyone still inside the building, so they don’t have to spend time searching areas where people have already evacuated.
What are the benefits of having an emergency mustering system in the workplace?
There are emergencies we may be able to foresee and prepare for (such as the approach of a wildfire or an earthquake in an area prone to them). Businesses that deal with hazardous materials will typically have emergency plans in case of leaks or blasts. In these cases, mustering systems help facilitate an emergency response plan and provide occupants with the tools to locate a safe space.
Back in 2014, a survey found that 92% of Americans had lived through a natural disaster, yet 90% had never practiced an evacuation plan. Fast forward to 2021, when disaster events were at their highest in a decade and cost the U.S. $112.5 billion in addition and lost lives. Floods topped the list of disasters. But in the workplace, events like fires were on the rise. The National Fire Protection Agency reported a 13% increase in workplace fire incidents in 2020 (totaling 111,000 fires).
While OSHA has guidelines on emergency preparedness, not every incident can be predicted. But that doesn’t mean safety managers can’t prepare. Employee mustering can also be used to deliver information to smartphones and devices that people look to first when a crisis occurs.
Consider workplace threats like gun violence. In 2020, assaults resulted in 20,050 injuries and 392 fatalities in the workplace. They also cost businesses an average of $250 to $330 billion annually. Sadly, they also occur in places like healthcare facilities and schools. But one thing these organizations have in common is that many of them use a visitor management system that can be ushered into service for emergency mustering to save lives.
What processes are involved in employee mustering, and how can a VMS help?
The best emergency preparedness plans involve clear evacuation plans, practice drills to ensure people know how to exit a building safely, and knowledge of both emergency meeting points and all-clear signals.
For organizations that have already invested in a visitor management system, such as Sine’s, employee mustering becomes much more straightforward since the tools are already in place.
Here’s what Sine offers safety and building managers who are trying to integrate emergency mustering into safety and security plans:
- Digital check-in using efficient iPad technology or phone apps (including QR codes for touchless check-in), so there’s always a current list of who is on-site.
- Electronic check-in forms that provide new visitors with information on emergency procedures.
- The collection of contact information so everyone on site can receive timely emergency SMS messages with evacuation instructions through a mobile app.
- Visitor badges that can be equipped with technology that allows you to track who has left a building or checked into a mustering site.
- GPS-based geofencing that allows you to see in real-time who is on-site and where they are located.
- Wayfinding technology to lead people to the safest mustering point.
- The ability to use apps and badges to take roll-call at a mustering point.
- The ability to send all-clear messages to everyone at the mustering point, so they’re aware of the next steps.
The role of a visitor management system for employee mustering
Employee mustering systems are an integral part of emergency evacuations because they help employers and building managers communicate with employees and visitors when emergencies hit and usher people to safety and ensure no one is left behind.
In order to safely and effectively employ an emergency mustering system, you need a way to track visitors electronically. That’s where Sine’s Visitor Management System (VMS) can help. In addition to processing visitors and collecting information to keep buildings safe and efficient, a VMS can help your organization digitize your employee mustering system to get the most out of your investment.