While you may not be able to predict when an emergency will occur, you can prepare for it. Creating an emergency preparedness plan is, in fact, one of the most critical strategic decisions a company can make. Taking a few easy steps now can save lives and make sure that your business will still be around in the future.
Many states have laws that mandate some level of emergency preparedness in the workplace. However, doing the bare minimum required by law is frequently insufficient to ensure a company’s survival in the event of an emergency.
We’ll go over everything you need to know about workplace emergency preparedness in this article. We’ll point you to the legal requirements as well as a comprehensive 7-step checklist to help you create your own emergency action plan:
Gather the necessary stakeholders.
Conduct a threat assessment in the event of an emergency.
Create Your Primary EAP Procedures.
Outline the roles and responsibilities of EAP personnel.
Educate employees about your EAP.
Determine which procedures can be automated.
Conduct an annual review of your plan.
Let’s start from the beginning. An emergency in the workplace is defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as any event that “threatens workers, customers, or the public; disrupts or shuts down operations; or causes physical or environmental damage.”
Those effects can be caused by a wide range of events. Some are classified as technological hazards because they are usually the result of human or industrial activity failures, such as:
Major structural failures;
Loss of electrical power;
Crime or terrorism.
Hurricanes and other severe weather systems,
It’s important to keep in mind that these occurrences are merely the catalysts for emergency situations. The damage that these hazards cause is the true emergency that must be prepared for.
Creating an emergency action plan (EAP) can be a daunting task with all of those potential threats to consider and all of these regulations to follow. That is why we created an emergency preparedness checklist to guide entities ranging from small businesses to large corporations through the process. The checklist is divided into seven major steps:
To create an effective EAP, you will need to solicit feedback from a wide range of people. Members of your company’s leadership and security personnel will need to be involved. Representatives from various departments should also be present to provide input on how different responses should be implemented on the ground.
If your facility is in a densely populated area, such as an industrial park, it may also make sense to solicit feedback from nearby businesses. Local emergency services may also wish to contribute, particularly with regard to emergency plans at larger businesses, which may have a disproportionate impact on their resources during a larger emergency event.
Begin brainstorming what hazards your plan should address with your stakeholders present. Consider the major threats to your facility. Do you live in a flood zone? Do you live in a high-crime area? Is it possible that hurricanes or tornadoes will strike?
Next, consider what response options your company has if one of these threats occurs. Can you evacuate to a safe location away from the site? Is it possible to take shelter in place? Think about what you would need to do in each of these situations to protect people and property.
It’s now time to write down specific procedures. Because emergencies are chaotic, it is critical that your EAP be clear and simple to understand.
Your EAP should delegate specific roles and responsibilities that must be fulfilled during an emergency. Most organizations assign two types of roles: emergency managers and essential staff.
When an EAP is implemented, essential personnel are given additional responsibilities. In some industries, such as energy, it may be necessary to assign critical personnel to shut down dangerous equipment or to ensure that other equipment, such as generators, remains operational while evacuations take place.
Staff assigned to these roles must also participate in your training efforts. Depending on the size of your organization and the scope of your EAP, assigning specific staff as EAP trainers may make sense. This leads us to the following point.
An EAP is useless if your employees do not know how to use it in an emergency. Once your EAP roles and procedures are established, it is critical to conduct emergency preparedness training for your entire workplace.
Carry out simulated evacuation and shelter-in-place drills. Regular personnel should adhere to their area’s evacuation and mustering plans. Emergency managers and critical personnel should go over their assigned responsibilities.
During an emergency response, human error is a common issue. When people are under pressure, record-keeping and decision-making fail. As a result, determining whether specific tasks or entire procedures can be automated can be beneficial.
Emergency notification, for example, is frequently automated. You could set up a public address or text alert system to notify people in the event of an emergency. You may also want to install an alert system that contacts emergency services automatically.
Every business evolves, and your EAP should do the same. New threats may necessitate planning. New technology may have emerged that will make your planning easier. Set aside time each year for stakeholders to meet and discuss how your EAP can be improved. Then, to keep procedures fresh in employees’ minds, they hold updated training sessions.