Prominent Sydney hotel the Park Hyatt at The Rocks, was evacuated late last month after chlorine and acid were accidentally combined near a guest swimming pool, causing potentially toxic fumes to travel throughout the building via its air conditioning system. As reported by Fairfax, one guest and six staff members were taken to hospital and treated for exposure to toxic fumes.  The building was then ventilated and declared safe within two hours of the spill. It is clear that the hotel’s emergency response was swift and proactive, with an evacuation activated after fumes were detected despite air quality being “not detrimental to health”, according to a Fire and Rescue spokesman.

This incident demonstrates the need to have a well-tested state of emergency readiness. It is one thing to have a plan, it is another to ensure it works.  All public venues, hotels and places of public assembly should ensure all staff are familiar with the emergency arrangements, and that they have participated in a practice to test the assumptions that are always made with emergency response.

The media exposure attracted by this incident shows the capacity that they have to potentially affect a company’s brand through adverse media coverage; particularly if handled poorly.  Fortunately in this case the incident appeared well managed, and the item attracted no further media attention.