Having an emergency response plan is the single most important way to help prevent avoidable injury or death in the event of a disaster. Emergencies that occur in the workplace can happen at any time, often with little warning. Whether they are internally-caused at the site like a structural collapse or externally-caused like a tornado striking, emergency factors must be handled in a timely, controlled and calculated manner to minimize the potential risk to human life and company property.
An emergency response plan can significantly reduce the unknowns during such a catastrophic scenario and also help decipher how to handle new unknowns as they arise. Here are some guidelines for your own emergency response plan and disaster preparedness policies.
Know What You Are Up Against
Your first step to being prepared for emergencies is to know what that emergency could look like. Form a committee to begin your plan’s development, and together with them begin listing all of the scenarios that could impact your business and put your employees at risk. Try to rank scenarios in order of likelihood that they might affect you, but never leave any situation unaccounted for as long as it lies within the realm of possibility.
Possible internal emergency situations include:
- Structural Collapse
- Major equipment malfunction
- Toxic substance release
- Electrification of job site area
Examples of possible external emergency situations:
- Terrorist attack/armed assault
Ask for outside opinions to account for possible scenarios that were not raised. Also look to local or national news to get ideas on risks that can affect your workplace.
Establish Escape Routes and Evacuation Protocols
Be prepared for emergencies with an appropriate plan for each possible scenario. You can always consult emergency response organizations like fire stations, police, OSHA, the Red Cross or FEMA for best practices that help reduce risk.
An evacuation plan for internal emergencies or impending disasters should be a top priority. Arrange for a safe meeting place both on and off-site.
Have variables for different situations, such as flooding that makes first floor evacuation impossible. Be certain that employees with disabilities or mobility issues can be accounted for during the plan’s implementation.
Designate Emergency Response Personnel
Appoint a permanent disaster management team and head manager to continually revise and improve the disaster plan. Their ongoing duties will include arranging for disaster response situations such as determining a local hospital that can handle the majority of your crew’s emergency medical needs at once. They must also train managers and employees on the appropriate way to respond to specific emergencies.
One of the most important elements to establish is a chain-of-command and contact information for personnel that should be consulted or informed during an emergency. The team should also prepare kits for medical emergencies, fire outbreaks and other situations so that no employees are caught unprepared.
You can also appoint personnel among the regular employees as “evacuation wardens” who can help facilitate emergency response measures. One warden per 20 employees is often a safe ratio.
Train, Drill, Improve
Train employees at least once a year on how to handle disaster situations. New employees must be trained immediately, and existing employees must be re-trained following any revisions of the disaster response plan.
Emergency response drills can help people remain calm and make proper decisions during an emergency. Drills should be conducted several times throughout the year, and notes on how to improve drill responses or drill protocols should be taken during the proceedings.
Only by going through these processes will your team be able to handle an emergency without panic breaking out or deadly mistakes being made.