Even if rain isn’t in the forecast, most of us still store an umbrella somewhere. We all have a spare tire even though we don’t expect to get a flat. We still feed the meter for an hour and fifteen when we know we’ll only be gone for an hour.
Why is it any different with an office emergency? It is rare to wake up expecting a fire, flood, or civil disturbance at the office, but planning for these events are crucial for us and our employees. Not sure how to begin? Use the following steps as a guide.
Do an emergency assessment and determine what types of potential emergencies are a risk for your office.
Your emergency plan should be all inclusive and tailored to your organization. Do an assessment of any physical, environmental, or chemical hazards that might make your building vulnerable to an emergency. If you have multiple sites, each one should have its own emergency plan. For more information on types of emergencies in the workplace, take a deeper look with OSHA’s “How to Plan for Workplace Emergencies and Evacuations” guide.
Develop a method for reporting emergencies and alerting your employees.
A well developed plan should have an efficient system for reporting an emergency that also includes a standard way of alerting employees. An alarm system is an obvious component, but it doesn’t give employees much information other than to leave the building. A portable radio unit or a mobile crisis management network, like Punch Alert, are reliable options. Confusion is the last thing you want in a crisis, so make sure to train your employees on your desired method. If you’d like a little more guidance on crisis communication visit ready.gov or cdc.gov for more insight and sample plans.
Assign roles and duties for employees.
Set up internal teams within the office, such as an evacuation team or shelter team. Within each team designate a leader who has the authority to make decisions and supervises the process. Also assign medical duties for employees qualified to perform them and instructions for those who may stay behind to shut down any operations, or use fire extinguishers. It’s crucial for employees to know their role for a smooth evacuation that minimizes damages, so make sure the teams and roles are clearly written out. For an example of a comprehensible plan, view ready.gov’s sample template.
Develop an evacuation policy and procedure.
Based on the floor plan of your office, come up with primary and secondary escape routes. Make sure your chosen exits are well lit, wide enough to fit several employees, and unlikely to put those evacuating at any further risk. Also determine refuge areas designated for when evacuation is no longer an option. Post these procedures where they are easily accessible to everyone. Consider a physical location at the office and also online or mobile – more than one place is always best.
Designate an assembly location.
An assembly location ensures you can account for all employees after evacuation and notify police, fire department, or medics if anyone is still in the building.
It is crucial for you and your employees to take the time to plan for an emergency. Although no one expects a crisis when they walk into work, it gives everyone peace of mind to know the organization is ready for it. It’s like bringing that umbrella to the picnic when there’s not a cloud in the sky – always Be Prepared!