A muster point is a key piece to any emergency plan. It should be well-known and clearly marked to provide an easy location during an emergency. It is usually marked either by a sign, or marked on the exterior of a location by a symbol that has four arrows pointing inward towards a central dot. Within the building or workstation, the evacuation maps should indicate the muster point as well as the evacuation route.
In larger buildings, there may be multiple muster points, with each area of the building having its own dedicated point. Typically, each is either divided by floor, department, or organization to prevent stampeding and congestion during an evacuation. Each muster point should have a safety officer or safety chief responsible for managing the affairs of the muster point during an emergency until the situation is all clear.
Why a Muster Point?The idea of having a muster point in the first place is to provide a spot for making sure everyone is accounted for during an emergency. Rather than having people run off in random directions, having a strategic place to meet allows the safety officer to quickly provide a roll-call or attendance of those at the muster point by using an inventory list of all the people in the building, which is included in the emergency plan. By quickly rolling through the list, the safety officer can then notify emergency crews about missing persons, as well as get details about the locations and possibilities of any hazards of those people in a much more efficient manner. Some offices and workplaces use a buddy system to account for missing people, since it can be easy to miss someone in a large workplace. That way, if someone is sick or at a business meeting, their buddy will be able to alert the safety officer without creating a false alarm. (Muster points are often used in a fire. Learn more in Office Safety: Knowing Fire Safety Can Save Your Life.)
How to Choose a Muster PointThere are many things to consider when choosing a muster point. First, it should be an easily accessible location close to the building that is not impeded by other hazards. Having a muster point on the other side of a busy highway, for example, can cause increased hazards for people during an evacuation or an emergency. The muster point must also be large enough to accommodate the number of people assigned to that point, so as not to overcrowd or constrict movement should a blowout or secondary emergency occur. For example, some places use a large open parking lot as a muster point. The muster point should also be far enough away from any other immediate dangers, so in the event of an emergency, groups of people are not put into hazardous areas. This could include areas near things such as streams, hazardous trees, fences, or other obstacles. As with any safety concern, using common sense goes a long way. The muster point should be in a place that is safe from harm and easy to get to. If the muster point is subject to a lot of distraction and interference, then the safety officer will be unable to control the crowd, and communication efficiency can be reduced.
When it comes to choosing a specific muster point, picture your own office or workplace. Where are the potential hazards? Would you want to have a meeting place beside these potentially hazardous locations? To get an idea of where the muster point should be, think of the safest locations that are free from hazards, and that have good lighting, then make your evacuation plans accordingly. Use your common knowledge, and get input and feedback from your crew to ensure that everyone has a say regarding the potential threats of the proposed muster point. You should also consider all your options before adjusting or finalizing your plan.