Emergency Preparedness in the Workplace

Dear, Anita,

Every time a natural disaster makes headlines, I start to worry about our office safety. What if something happens during work hours? Can you offer me any tips to implement an emergency preparedness plan for my workplace?

Dear, Dorothy,

Tornadoes and hurricanes and earthquakes. Oh, my! As if natural disasters weren’t enough, workplaces sometimes have to deal with broken water mains, fires, accidents, and rare cases of disgruntled employees going postal. While I’d like to be an eternal optimist, I find it’s wise to observe the scout motto, “Be prepared.”

TornadoThe American Red Cross website is a great place to start your emergency preparedness planning: http://www.readyrating.org. Membership is free in its Red Cross Ready Rating Program, which offers an online self-assessment tool, along with resources to help you implement an emergency plan for your workplace.  Steps include obtaining safety equipment, writing both an emergency plan and Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP), and educating employees.

Part of the plan will be evacuation procedures. How will all employees be alerted? What is the emergency escape route or the shelter-in-place site for your building? Where is the external assembly area to account for employees after an evacuation?

Medical assistance may be required in some emergencies. Are your first aid kits up to date? Even if one person is designated to call emergency personnel, it never hurts for anyone and everyone to dial 911.

What happens if your office space does sustain some damage? The Continuity of Operations Plan establishes a back-up plan for daily operation of essential business functions. Reach out now to suppliers, vendors, and other businesses to create procedures to implement in the event of disaster.

Once you have your company’s emergency preparedness plan in place, be sure to communicate it to every single employee. Schedule an annual practice drill. You’ll find most staff members won’t mind a break from their usual tasks to protect their personal safety and the source of their livelihood. For a few laughs, and some pointers on how NOT to conduct your mock training exercise, enjoy this fire drill clip from the sitcom “The Office”:

Readers: Does your workplace have an emergency plan in place? When was the last time you practiced a building evacuation drill?

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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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