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Workplace Security: Office Emergency Preparedness

No matter where you live, you will undoubtedly encounter and deal with emergencies, such as tornadoes, fires, chemical or toxic spills, or any number of other natural and man-made disasters. In these situations, where conditions can quickly deteriorate into life-threatening situations, workplace preparedness is critical and could mean the difference between life and death.

Employers should equip the workplace with appropriate alarm signals, such as a public address system, to reduce or avoid work-related accidents and injuries that can occur during a weather or other emergency, which go a step further and will likely function more efficiently than the escape route signs required by law. Employers can use a public address system to relay danger alerts and/or calls to evacuate the building.

What should be done first

To ensure worker safety, a strategic emergency evacuation plan is required. Companies should form an emergency planning team to identify and prepare for worst-case scenarios, ensuring that the team is prepared for any emergency that arises. Employers should make a written policy detailing the system’s essentials available to employees in p[order to fully inform them of the emergency response and evacuation plan. The following items should be included in the emergency plan:

Emergency notification systems: You have several options for an emergency notification system, including public addresses and texting networks similar to those used on college campuses to alert students of potential threats. Whatever method you choose, make certain that the messages reach everyone.

Chain of command: The effectiveness of an emergency notification system is only as good as its organization. Decide who will send notifications and who will fill in for these workers if they are unavailable or incapacitated.

Evacuation routes: Once you’ve established an evacuation plan, train your employees on proper evacuation procedures. A local fire department is frequently willing to assist with evacuation training. As with emergency notification systems, make sure that employees with disabilities have the necessary aids.

Responder protocols: To shut down operations, some people may need to stay behind a little longer. Put in place safety procedures and protocols to ensure their safety, and provide extensive safety training to them.

Fire extinguishers: Fire extinguishers have instructions for use on the canister or box, but users may not follow them correctly in the heat of the moment. Assure that employees understand what to do if a fire extinguisher is required.

Post-evacuation protocol: Once the evacuation has been completed, you must have a plan in place, including a method to ensure that everyone has safely exited the building. Set aside a meeting space and take head counts there. Don’t forget about non-employees, such as customers who may have been present.

What to do in the event of a medical emergency

In the event of a workplace accident or a medical emergency, immediate action is required. Treatment should ideally begin within four minutes of the problem arising. As soon as possible, dial 911. Coworkers with the necessary resources and skills can then step in to assist.

  • Maintain a well-stocked, easily accessible first-aid kit.

  • Encourage employees to obtain CPR certification.

  • Equip the office with an AED and train employees on how to use it (automated external defibrillator).

  • Employees should be connected with seizure training.

  • Teach employees about the symptoms of a stroke and how to respond appropriately.

Defending business assets

Your emergency plans should include a safeguard for your actual business operations, in addition to your employees. Businesses, for example, should have backup servers or cloud storage to preserve important records.

Creating a culture of safety

Finally, none of these precautions will be effective unless employers commit to creating safe workplace conditions and ensuring safe worker interactions. To achieve this goal, forethought, diligence, and company-wide involvement are required.


OSHA is a good place to start for emergency planning training and assistance. Employers can read their How to Plan for Workplace Emergencies and Evacuations guide to get a general idea of what to do in case of an emergency.

The American Red Cross Ready Rating Program can also assist businesses in preparing their teams for disasters. This free program includes a 123-point self-assessment to help participants determine their level of preparedness and encourages participants to improve their readiness scores.

A company can only go so far with a plan and a policy: Hold regular preparedness training and fire drills at least twice a year to ensure that your staff is prepared to respond to disasters and treat work-related accidents.