Council evacuation a learning curve for all involved
AN IMPROPTU evacuation of Clarence Valley Council's Grafton headquarters has prompted a review of its emergency procedures.
The council is estimated to have lost hundreds of man hours when staff found a white powder in mail opened on Tuesday morning.
Within 15 minutes the Prince St buildings were empty, but by the end of the day it would be revealed the white powders was just a marketing sample of bin deodorant sent to councils around Australia.
The council's corporate director, Ashley Lindsay, said it would be almost impossible to calculate the cost of the false alarm, but it was not without its benefits either.
"We probably had 50 or more staff affected in some way - some more than others," he said.
"Once we realised the office would be closed for some time we moved most of our staff to our office in Victoria Street and most were able to continue working, albeit under less than ideal conditions and not to capacity.
"And we had four staff members in isolation at the site and then the hospital for most of the day.
"It was not a great day, but we learnt quite a bit as well.
"We learnt our emergency procedures worked quite well. The building was evacuated quickly and efficiently and staff all moved to the emergency assembly point without fuss.
"They are our most important asset, so it was good to see they responded well.
"But we learnt there were a few things we could do more effectively, such as providing back-up for our call centre staff who, of course, also had to vacate the building. Incoming callers would not have been aware of the disruption we were facing.
"We'll have some debriefings and see what worked well and what didn't and implement a few changes, but generally we were satisfied with how it was handled."
Grafton Fire Brigade captain Garry Reardon said even though the evacuation was a false alarm there were a lot of positives as well.
"It is well known workplaces that have emergency practices in place do it better and the outcomes are better in emergencies," he said.
Grafton fire officer Col Drayton, who led yesterday's operation, said a there were a couple of young firefighters on his crew who had been trained, but had not attended a job.
"I was talking with one of them this morning and he was telling me how much he had learned," he said.