September is right around the corner, which means that National Preparedness Month (NPM) will soon be in full swing. The National Safety Council (NSC) uses this time to foster awareness around the ways you can prepare yourselves and families for any disaster that could impact your facilities, homes, and communities. The NPM theme for the month is Prepared, Not Scared.
To evaluate whether your business is prepared for an emergency, see whether you can answer “yes” to each of these questions:
- Do your employees know how to safely evacuate the building/workplace in the event of an emergency?
- Do you have a team who understands their responsibilities should an emergency occur?
- If your facility has an emergency plan, has it been updated to reflect changing threats and changes within your facility’s operations?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, you’re probably not alone, as many businesses do not have procedures in place to respond to an emergency. But even if you are able to answer “yes,” and even if you are a facility that OSHA requires to have an emergency action plan that complies with 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1910.38, there are always best management practices you can adopt to ensure that your facility can react in the best interests of both the employees and the business when a disaster occurs. Let’s review a couple of these best management practices.
Every business should have an evacuation plan. An evacuation that is unorganized can result in confusion, injury, and property damage. Such plans are needed for myriad emergencies, such as natural disasters (mudslides, wildfires, and flooding), as well as chemical leaks, equipment malfunctions, and fires in the facility. The evacuation plan should address:
- How employees are alerted to the need to evacuate
- The location of exits that are well-lit and unobstructed
- Where employees should meet outside the facility to ensure that all are accounted for
Any plan must reflect the types of potential emergencies and establish a clear chain of command so that all employees know who is authorized to order an evacuation, assist other employees in an evacuation, and designated to give instructions to the other employees. For any plan to be effective, employees must be trained at least once a year in how to implement the plan. This applies to every business, even those that aren’t required to have an evacuation plan.
In the event of an emergency that requires the evacuation of the building, it’s imperative to not only know the location of the emergency exits but also be able to exit the building easily and safely. Every employee should be familiar with a floor plan of the facility that indicates the location of all emergency exits and the designated outside assembly points. These floor plans should be posted throughout the facility. Employees must be trained not only to find the exit that’s closest to their work station but also to know the location of other exits should the closest one be inaccessible due to fire or smoke.
It’s also important that employees be instructed to move away from the building’s exit discharge doors and to avoid congregating close to the building so as not to be in the way of emergency operations. Once outside the building, employees must move quickly to the designated outside assembly point and wait for instructions from designated personnel.
You may want to review the following Safety.BLR.com® tools for more helpful information regarding emergency preparedness: