Is your facility near a major highway? Near train tracks? In the flight path of an airport? Tornado alley? Flood zone? Hurricanes? Bomb/WMD threat? What about simply being located near timberland? In the case of the Colorado Department of Corrections, a mass evacuation of inmates was not just a theory anymore. As the “Royal Gorge” fire raged near Canon City, The Colorado Department of Corrections needed to evacuate over 900 inmates from a prison facility to other DOC facilities in the state. This included moving prisoners from the infirmary and some in wheelchairs.
So it can happen. And it can happen at your facility. Are you prepared? The key is to have a current mass evacuation plan that is not just a paper product but an active part of your emergency plan that has been tried, tested, and tweaked through periodic evacuation drills.
Since there is no such thing as a “normal” emergency, and the circumstances necessitating mass evacuation are not totally predictable, there probably should not be a “normal” mass evacuation drill. Develop a written drill scenario, fairly normal for the first few drills to test the logistics and relationships, and then start to add to the scenario problems and unexpected events that need to be overcome. If you really want to know if you can safely and securely move inmates, you need to practice actually moving real inmates. If that keeps you awake at night, then use staff or volunteers but remember, you might learn more by moving inmates than just simulating it with volunteers. When possible, videotape the drills.
Always conduct formal drill de-briefings with a written product which not only documents the drill but also captures lessons learned, changes required, and new behaviors needed.
A Guide to Preparing for and Responding to Jail Emergencies: Self-Audit Checklists, Resource Materials, Case Studies
A Guide to Preparing for and Responding to Prison Emergencies: Self-Audit Checklists, National Survey Results, Resource Materials, [and] Case Studies
This blog is funded by a contract from the National Institute of Corrections, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view or opinions stated in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.