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Evacuation Drills in Public Places

FireExit

Schools and private businesses aren’t the only facilities that hold drills to prepare for active shooter situations. But at schools and some businesses, such drills are expected, and often even announced beforehand. What happens, though, when you’re out and about in a public place and not somewhere you’d expect to encounter an active shooter/evacuation drill?

This is what happened when shoppers faced this very situation at Orlando’s Florida Mall in 2016:

Evacuation Drill at Apple Store

In August 2016 — just two months after the horrific Pulse nightclub shooting that killed 49 people — the Apple store at Florida Mall held an evacuation drill that caused mass panic among its customers. According to a spokeswoman for the Orange County Sheriff’s office, officials popped six balloons to mimic the sound of gunfire.

A personal injury lawsuit recently filed against Apple Computers and the Apple store at Florida mall alleges that, “Security made an announcement that instructed all customers on their premises to lie down on the floor” when the balloons popped. Then everyone was told to get up and flee the store.

One woman was in the store during the incident. She says she attempted to get up off the floor but was injured by other customers in the mass exodus. Nine customers were injured, police said, and physical injuries consisted of “mostly falls, scrapes and twisted knees.”

The woman filed the personal injury lawsuit against Apple, claiming more than $15,000 in damages. She alleges that Apple failed to warn customers of the drill and didn’t have adequate staff to prevent the injuries.

Was the Evacuation Drill Negligent?

Arguably, businesses should conduct evacuation drills, because active shooter situations are unexpected and their employees need to know how to prepare for them. Same with fire drills. If people know it’s just a drill, they might not take it seriously. In fact, according to a publication called “Occupational Health & Safety,” employees typically ignore pre-announced fire drills because they know it’s not a real emergency.

But how should businesses conduct drills involving customers? If the goal is to prepare employees how to respond, there might be some value in teaching them how to deal with panicked customers in emergency situations. But is there any value for customers? While businesses know who their daily employees are, they do know who their daily customers will be because different customers patronize different businesses on different days. Businesses owe a different duty of care to their customers than they do to their employees.

An experienced attorney can examine the facts of your case and argue that businesses have a duty to warn customers of evacuation drills like the one at the Apple store.

Contact Us Today

Contact an Orlando personal injury attorney at The Pendas Law Firm today for a free consultation if you were injured in a public evacuation drill or by any other negligent business action. We will help recover compensation for your injuries.

The Pendas Law Firm also represents clients in the Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Fort Myers, West Palm Beach, Tampa, Miami, Daytona Beach and Bradenton areas.

Resources:

orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-bz-apple-store-evacuation-20180425-story.html

ohsonline.com/Articles/2016/03/01/Fire-Drills-Evaluating-Employee-Exit-Strategies.aspx

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