Evacuation Elements » Employee Responsibilities

People in meeting

When there is an emergency, getting workers out of high-rise buildings poses special challenges. Preparing in advance to safely evacuate the building is critical to the safety of employees who work there.

  • Be familiar with the work site's emergency evacuation plan.
  • Know the pathway to at least two alternative exits from every room/area at the workplace.
  • Recognize the sound/signaling method of the fire/evacuation alarms.
  • Know who to contact in an emergency and how to contact them.
  • Know how many desks or cubicles are between your workstation and two of the nearest exits so you can escape in the dark if necessary.
  • Know where the fire/evacuation alarms are located and how to use them.
  • Report damaged or malfunction safety systems and back-up systems.
  • Leave the area quickly but in an orderly manner, following the work site's emergency evacuation plan. Go directly to the nearest fire-free and smoke-free stairwell recognizing that in some circumstances the only available exit route may contain limited amounts of smoke or fire.
  • Listen carefully for instructions over the building's public address system.
  • Crawl low, under the smoke to breathe cleaner air if there is a fire. Test doors for heat before opening them by placing the back of your hand against the door so you do not burn your palm and fingers. Do not open a hot door, but find another exit route. Keep "fire doors" closed to slow the spread of smoke and fire.
  • Avoid using elevators when evacuation a burning building.
  • Report to the designated meeting place.
  • Don't re-enter the building until directed by authorities.
  • Stay calm and take steps to protect yourself.
  • Go to a room with an outside window, and telephone for help if possible.
  • Stay where rescuers can see you and wave a light-colored cloth to attract attention.
  • Open windows if possible, but be ready to shut them if smoke rushes in.
  • Stuff clothing, towels, or newspapers around the cracks in doors to prevent smoke from entering your room.


Because every high-rise building has unique characteristics involving location, design, construction, and occupancy, this page covers only some of the basic considerations for safe evacuation. This information is not a substitute for a site-specific evacuation program nor does it detail specific OSHA or OSHA-approved state plan standards that may be applicable to individual work sites. Likewise, it does not create independent legal obligations. In addition, OSHA citations can only issued for violations of the OSH Act, OSHA standards, or OSHA regulations.