When the alarm has been sounded and people have evacuated, the role of the Warden team is to ensure that their area is clear of people. Sweeping the area, checking every room and space is the surest way to feel comfortable that there is no one left in your area.  As each facility is different, catering to a different number of occupants, in different circumstances (elderly in aged care facilities, kids in childcare facilities, workers in offices or warehouses etc.) there is no one approach to head counting that will work in every scenario.

In some situations where members of the public do not sign into a facility, for example shopping centres, theatres and event locations, a post evacuation headcount is not possible as no usable record of attendance will have been collected. This is true even as we emerge from government QR Code signings to public locations as a result of COVID. In this scenario the only way a Warden can be sure their area is clear of people is to manually search.

Wardens of areas where members of the public are in attendance and records are not kept on an individual basis, a headcount when reaching the Assembly Area is not realistic. In this case, the only way to ensure an area has been evacuated effectively is to physically search the area.

But what about offices? Or areas where there is a fairly stable occupancy? Let’s look at the options and discuss the pros and cons of various methods of head counting available.

We will cover two common methods in this blog and investigate more in future blogs.

Common Head Count Methods

Paper Based Attendance Records:

Paper based attendance records are commonly used in education and child care facilities, where longstanding requirements for accounting for attendance have been met with paper based rollcall lists that are physically ticked off at the start of the day.

While the reason for the collection of this attendance data is not primarily for use in an emergency situation, the existence of this type of attendance record is a great starting point for head counting at the Assembly Area. Attendance records often form part of Evacuation Bags that are used by Wardens during evacuations.

This system requires attention to usage and while it is a good place to start, there are often inaccuracies in the lists for a variety of reasons.

This system is effective when coupled with physical identification by staff based on knowledge of who is in attendance.

App-Based Attendance Records:

Another option is App (Application) based record keeping. There will be situations where this approach is both more widely used and more likely to be successful. This would include spaces such as offices, where technology is commonplace and workers are accustomed to using apps for various business functions.

Effective use of an app-based methodology depends on access to the app, network and device. If any of the elements of the app-based solution are unavailable (e.g. the network is down or the device has no power), an alternate solution must be found.

If the device uses WiFi and the emergency has taken out the facilities network, can a hotspot be found?

Can the App be loaded and operated on a mobile phone?

Is there a mobile signal in the Assembly Area?

For local or facility-based emergencies, these problems can be overcome with persistence and problem solving, however with area wide or district wide emergencies, it is possible that there may be a number of technical challenges from power outages affecting communications networks to potential damage situations affecting application delivery.


So, what we do know is that, neither of these methods are a perfect, infallible answer and both methods are strengthened by physically checking the areas that have been evacuated and a detailed knowledge of the facility occupants.

In our next blog, we will cover:

  • SMS Based solutions
  • Device scanning
  • Badges/lanyards
  • Biometric
  • Face/fingerprint/retina

For more information about the importance of having emergency plans in place at work, head to https://workplaceemergencymanagement.com.au/emergency-plans/


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