In an emergency situation, protecting the life and personal safety of employees, clients and visitors should take precedence over protecting property.
An emergency only takes seconds to escalate. At the very least, each company facility or site should develop and implement an emergency plan. Whether the plan is mandated by corporate policy or regulatory agencies, a widely accessible workplace emergency plan can maximize response efficiencies and minimize impacts of the emergency on employees, the environment, and infrastructure.
We are going to be covering the workplace in detail during some planned guides but as a starter, we wanted to share some quick steps that you should take before a natural disaster or emergency occurs while you are at work.
Each person within the company needs to know all of the possible exits out of the building.
Know where emergency evacuation routes and marked emergency exits are located in your office building. If anybody within the company will need extra help due to mobility issues or the likes, make sure that this is part of the at-work emergency evacuation discussion. The more routes out, the better.
There are certain tools that can help you during an emergency which you must get familiar with.
- Social media – be aware that organizations such as FEMA and the CDC often use social media to relay important information during emergencies.
- Fire extinguishers – learn the locations of all the fire extinguishers within the building. Make sure that you also fully understand how to use them.
- Gas and water valves – learn where the water and gas shut-off valves are located and understand how to turn them off. Know who is responsible for shutting them off in an emergency and where a wrench is located in case you or a coworker needs to shut them off.
Prepare for the Possible
You should prepare for as many possible emergencies as possible.
Start by making a list of all the natural disasters that could occur in your particular area (earthquake, tornado, hurricane, land/mudslide, wildfire, snowstorm, tsunami and extreme heat) and make a plan for them specifically.
This step will involve some research to find out what has happened locally before and what is likely.
It is not enough to just make an emergency plan, you have to involve others in that plan also.
- Children/elderly parents/pets – assign somebody to pick your children up from school during an emergency. Have somebody check in on your elderly parent, and assign somebody who would take care of your pet if you had a pet at home while an emergency occurred?
- Include others – Talk with coworkers, neighbors, friends and family members about your personal emergency plan. For instance, make sure a friend or family member has a key to your home.
- Emergency phone numbers – A small notebook or an index card with emergency phone numbers placed at your desk keeps you connected should your mobile phone lose power. Have a list of family members and friends who you might need to contact before or during an emergency.
- Social media – Survivors of natural disasters have used social media productively to reach out for help during a natural disaster when 999 or 911 lines were busy. Social media is a good tool to let others know how you are doing should a natural disaster occur.
Power Outages at Work
You should be sure to prepare for power outages as these are more likely to occur over anything else. You can do so by stocking up on the following items:
- Flashlight and batteries – have a flashlight with an FM radio at your desk. Also include extra batteries. If possible go for a hand crank or solar flashlight to save on batteries.
- Phone charger – have a solar phone charger on hand so that you can charge your mobile phone.
- Surge protectors – turn off or disconnect computers, printers, refrigerators and other electronics to prevent a power surge. Buy and install surge protectors before the power outage occurs.
- Cash – many people now prefer card over cash but if there is a major power outage, cash will become vital. Keep some cash hidden in your car or at your desk in a secure container.
You need to create both an emergency kit, and a medical kit for your workplace and understand how to use everything properly.
Follow our guide for putting your own medical kit together. The items for your emergency kit will depend entirely on what it is that you are actually preparing for.
It is important that at least two people from the workforce are trained in first aid and CPR.
Water, Food, and Medications
As with any preparedness plan, you need to think about food, water, and medication needs of the employees. Stock the following:
- Non-perishable food – Unsalted nuts, granola bars, whole wheat crackers, peanut butter and dried fruits are packed with energy. Low-sodium canned soup and chili do not require preparation. Make sure to have a manual can opener too.
- Water – Store water in containers. Some people might have space for gallon jugs of water. Try to store as much as possible.
- Medications – if anybody requires special medication on a regular basis, this needs to be taken into consideration.
A basic tool kit is needed for repairs or securing windows to protect against incoming storms.
Face masks should also be included for protection against smoke or other pollutants.
It is impossible to think logically if you panic. In a workplace, if you panic, everybody will panic. It is important that you breathe and see the situation for what it is, rather than let your mind over-exaggerate it. This will allow you to think clearly, and more importantly, act!