Management of an emergency evacuation: METHOD
This study involved 37 employees from an organization. The organization is located in the Italian area that has experienced an earthquake in 2012. It is a multicultural organization located in a high-rise building of 10 floors. In addition to the employees that daily work in the building, also eventual guests can enter it, until a maximum of 500 persons of building occupancy allowed.
Participants have been selected taking into account their role during the emergency situation. Indeed, we were only interested in people who had a leading role. In particular, 21.6% of the participants were line manager or team leaders and 78.4% were fire pickets. Taking into account the gender, 52.8% of the respondents were males and 47.2% were females. Considering the age, 5.7% were less than 30 years old, 45.7% between 30 and 40 years old, 42.9% between 40 and 50 years old and 5.7% between 50 and 60 years old. Considering the years of work experience in the organization, 8.6% of the respondents has been working in that organization since two years, 20% between two and four years and most of the respondents (71.4%) have been workingin that organization for more than 4 years.
Data were collected online in autumn 2012, 5 months after the strong earthquake that occurred in the area of Modena and Bologna provinces (Emilia-Romagna region, Italy) that caused the death of 27 people, with a high percentage of workers died under the collapse of recently constructed workshops.
Data were collected through an online questionnaire (see Appendix).
The questionnaire is composed of the following parts.
Previous earthquake experience – 1 item, three types of answer “No”, “Yes, once”, “Yes, more than once”.
Earthquake experience in the high rise building – 1 item, dichotomy answer “Yes” or “No”.
Position in the building during the seismic shock – 1 item, twelve type of answers from “Basement” to “Tenth floor”.
Immediate action during the seismic shock – open-ended question. We asked participants to write their immediate actions performed during the seismic shock.
Team emergency response – 8 items, 4 point Likert Scale (from “Totally disagree” to “Totally agree”), Cronbach Alpha=.84. We asked the leaders some information about the response of their teams during the emergency situation (occurred during the seismic shock). The items regard an effective emergency situation in general (e. g. “During the emergency it was clear who was taking the lead”) or specific behaviors (e. g. “People stayed away from windows, mirrors, glasses and electrical/electronic equipment”).
Interpersonal communication with the team members – 2 close-ended questions. We asked participants whether or not they have encouraged someone to stay calm (dichotomy answer “Yes” or “No”). We also asked participants whether or not they have convinced someone to leave the building (dichotomy answer “Yes” or “No”). Then we asked respondents to write down what they told to encourage their team members and what they told to convince to evacuate (open-ended questions).
Evacuation – 1 item. We asked participants to report whether or not they have evacuated the building after the last seismic shock (dichotomy answer “Yes” or “No”).
Team evacuation behavior – 11 items, 4 point Likert Scale (from “Totally disagree” to “Totally agree”). Only respondents who have evacuated after the last seismic shock answered this scale. We asked participants to rate their level of agreement in respect of some statements regarding teams’ evacuation behavior. Three of these items are connected with unsuccessful behaviors or situations and represent negative indicators of the evacuation’s effectiveness: “Someone remained alone and isolated”, “Someone underestimate the danger” and “Before moving forward people tested the floor with the foot”. The rest of the items refer to behaviors and situations that can be considered as positive indicators of the evacuation’s effectiveness (e. g. “People escape to a place of total safety in a reasonable time” or “People evacuated orderly”).
Situation’s degree of threat – 1 item, 5 point Likert Scale (from “Not at all” to “Extremely”). We asked the respondents to rate their personal degree of threat of the emergency situation.
Difficulties in leading the situation – 1 item, 5 point Likert Scale (from “Not at all” to “Extremely”). We asked the participants to report if they had experienced some difficulties in leading the emergency situation.
Type of difficulties – open-ended question. We asked the respondents to report which difficulties they have experienced during the emergency situation.
Self-confidence in leading the situation – 1 item. We asked the respondents to rate with a number between 0 and 100 their level of self-confidence in leading the emergency situation. Knowledge about emergency plan – 5 items, 3 point Likert Scale (from “Not at all” to “Completely”), Cronbach Alpha=.82. This scale measure the knowledge about emergency plan directly asking to leaders. Example of items are: “I know at least two escape routes, which lead to a place of total safety” or “I know the location of the emergency exit”.
Positive attitude about the effectiveness of emergency plan – 4 items, 4 point Likert Scale (from “Totally disagree” to “Totally agree”), Cronbach Alpha=.85. This scale measure the positive attitude of the leaders toward the emergency plan. Indeed, we asked the level of agreement of some statements about the availability, understandability and clarity of the emergency plan.
Opinions about the effectiveness of actions in case of earthquake – 7 items, 3 point Likert Scale (from “Not effective at all” to “Strongly effective”). We provided a list of actions that can be performed in case of a seismic shock and we asked the leaders how much they think that these actions are effective in order to protect their selves during that situation: “dropping down onto my hands and knees”, “covering my head and neck”, “holding on my shelter”, “evacuating immediately”, “getting down a doorway”, “getting down an interior wall”, “staying away from windows and glass doors”.
Drills’ effectiveness – 1 item, 5 point Likert Scale (from “Not at all” to “Extremely”). We asked respondents’ opinions regarding drill’s effectiveness.
Team’s awareness of the importance of maintaining the safety of the escape routes – 1 item, 5 point Likert Scale (from “Not at all” to “Extremely”). We asked participants to report the level of awareness of their teams regarding the importance of maintaining the safety of the escape routes.
Transformational leadership – 6 items, 5 point Likert Scale (from “Not at all” to “Frequently, if not always”), Cronbach Alpha=.90. We asked the respondents to report the frequency of some leadership behaviors that characterize the transformational leadership by Bass and Avolio (1994). We used some items from the Multi Factor Leadership Questionnaire, in particular the six items that refer to the first two factors of the seven used to describe the leadership style in that questionnaire: idealized influence and inspirational motivation. The first factor is connected to charisma and the second one regards motivation. We choose the following six items because of their pertinence with the topic of this study: “I express with a few words what we could and should do”, “I provide appealing images about what we can do”, “I help others find meaning in their work”, “I make others feel good to be around me”, “Others have complete faith in me”, “Others are proud to be associated with me”.
© – MANAGEMENT OF AN EMERGENCY EVACUATION: A LEADER’S PERSPECTIVE – Sara Colangeli