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Muster Points: How to Keep Your Team Safe During an Emergency

By Terry Creason
Last updated: December 8, 2023
Presented by AD Safety Network
Key Takeaways

Your muster point locations must be chosen carefully to ensure a safe and timely evacuation.

Most people know you're not supposed to panic during an emergency. Whether you're at work, staying in a hotel, or in a hospital, when it's time to evacuate it's important to do so in a calm, orderly fashion.

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But not as many people realize that what you do after you've left the building matters too.

Part of an evacuation is making your way to a specific location where you can be accounted for and kept safe from further harm. That gathering spot is called a muster point.

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Muster points are a critical component of emergency planning. It ensures that everyone knows where to go, helps supervisors make sure everyone has evacuated safely, and allows first responders to quickly treat anyone in need of aid.

Not every location outside your facility can serve as a muster point, however. There are a few important things to consider when looking for a suitable spot where people can assemble.

In this article, we'll go over those considerations so you can choose the right location for your muster point and improve your workplace's emergency evacuation procedures.

Muster Point Basics

What a Muster Point Looks Like

Muster points don't really stand out. They tend to blend in with the surrounding environment, partly because they serve a different function when there isn't an emergency.

Your muster point could be a corner in the parking lot, a patch of mowed grass at the edge of the property line, or the pathway in front of an auxiliary building. In most cases, the only visual cue that it's an assembly point is the muster point sign posted somewhere in the area.

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Muster Point Signs

There's no strict standard for muster point signs, so they all look a bit different. Most of them do share a few conventional elements, however:

  • A green background
  • White arrows pointing to the middle of the sign from each of the four corners
  • A white figure depicting a person or group of persons in the middle
  • "Muster Point" or "Assembly Point" written in white

Some signs will only have the visual representation of the muster point (the arrows pointing to the figures in the middle of the sign), some will only have the words, while others will have both.

Source: SP Medical

Number of Muster Points

Larger buildings require multiple muster points. These will each be assigned to different floors, departments, or organizations to prevent congestion during an evacuation.

Each muster point should have a separate supervisor, safety officer, or safety manager assigned to it. This person will be in charge of taking roll call and act as the point person for first responders.

(Learn more in Is Your Facility Prepared for an Emergency? How to Set Up an Evacuation Plan.)

How to Choose an Appropriate Muster Point

Accessibility

First and foremost, the muster point must be easy to access. The point is for everyone to leave a risky situation and quickly get to safety.

Locating a muster point across a busy highway, behind a fence with a gate that must be unlocked, or past rough terrain that is difficult to traverse will slow down the evacuation, which could place some evacuees at greater risk.

Distance

To ensure a timely evacuation, the muster point should be located near the building. There's no reason to make everyone trek a quarter of a mile to reach the assembly point.

Siting it too close to the building can also be a problem. Without sufficient distance, employees at the muster point could still be harmed by the disaster. Think, for instance, of fire spreading, walls collapsing, chemical fumes spreading, or debris flying due to an explosion.

A common rule of thumb is to base the location of the muster point on the size of the building. The distance from the building should be at least 1.5 times the height of the building.

Obviously, that's not much use if you're deciding on a muster point for a jobsite that doesn't have a building – or where the hazard isn't contained in one (for instance, a large oil tank). In these cases, a hazard assessment will tell you what kind of emergencies could happen, how far their effects could reach, and where the safe zone would be during an emergency.

Size

The muster point must be large enough to accommodate all the people who are assigned to it. There should be sufficient room to avoid overcrowding, difficulty maneuvering through the assembled group, and for people to lie down if they need to.

If your facility is likely to have a number of visitors, temporary workers, contractors, clients, or customers at any given time, be sure to select an area that has enough room for them as well.

Safety

The last thing you want is to expose the evacuees to any more danger. That's why you should take care to select a muster point that doesn't have any significant hazards, such as streams, trees, vehicle traffic, flammable materials, or electrified equipment.

Make sure the area is well-lit at all hours and that there isn't any loud noise that could make communication difficult.

Emergency Responders

Everyone gathering at the muster point should not impede first responders in any way.

Fire engines should be able to drive up to the building quickly, even if the muster point is full. Paramedics should have the room to park an ambulance by the muster point and administer care to anyone who needs it.

If your muster point could get in the way of the preferred path for emergency vehicles or personnel, find another location.

(Learn more in What Should Be Included in Your Emergency Management Plan)

Review Your Muster Points Regularly

Your facility, its terrain, and the surrounding areas can change over time. Because of this, it's important to review muster points on an annual basis to make sure they are still suitable.

Among other things, ask yourself the following:

  • Is it still large enough to accommodate all employees?
  • Have any new hazards been introduced at or near the muster point?
  • Are there any new obstacles or obstructions in the path leading to the muster point?
  • Does the muster point need any maintenance (lightbulbs to be replaced, potholes that need filling, signs that should be cleaned or replaced)?
  • Hast he organization grown to the point where you will need an additional muster point?

Regular evacuation drills are also a good test of your muster points and how effective they are.

The Bottom Line

While there are a few important things to consider, muster points are a relatively simple concept. It's all about getting everyone to safety and being able to account for them.

Once you've found the right muster point, you need to make sure everyone knows where it is. Like fire extinguishers and AEDs, the hope is that the muster point will never be needed, but you have to be sure everyone knows what to do when it is.

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Presented By

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Written by Terry Creason | National Sales Manager

Terry Creason

Terry is the National Sales Manager for Wise Safety & Environment.

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