Preparing for an Emergency Evacuation in Six Steps

Ask yourself and your employees these questions:

  • How do you escape the building/worksite in the event of an emergency?
  • Where is the nearest exit route?
  • If the nearest exit route is blocked, what is your next option?

 

Under times of pressure, you and even your employees may likely become flustered and unable to think back to a safety training delivered months ago, or the few pages in the employee handbook.

Emergencies that require evacuation are typically unexpected. From fires and flooding to needing to take shelter or lockdown the facility, an emergency response plan and preparedness kit can make the difference between saving your business or potentially disastrous results. (Check out this emergency response plan resource from FEMA.) Taking the following steps can help ensure that your business and your employees remain safe in these emergent situations.

A workplace emergency could include any of the following:

  • Hurricane
  • Tornado
  • Toxic Gas Leak
  • Chemical Spill
  • Explosion
  • Workplace Violence
  • Fire

 

Step One: Create a Formal Emergency Evacuation Plan
This formal plan should be incorporated in the company handbook, and available separately for easy access. The plan should include contact phone numbers, designated safe meeting spots, and maps of various evacuation routes. An additional copy of this plan should be kept in a safe, off-site location, also.

Step Two: Create an Emergency Kit
An emergency kit is helpful in many situations. The kit should include a three-day supply of non-perishable food, flashlights and extra batteries, bottled water, a first aid kit, moist towlettes, dust mask, whistle to signal for help, and a battery-powered radio.

Step Three: Warning, Notifications, and Communications
To notify employees, including disabled workers, of an emergency, it is important to create an emergency notification plan. If using alarms to notify employees, they must be distinctive and able to be recognized by all employees as a signal to evacuate their workstation. Alarms should also be equipped with a light so the alarm can both be seen and heard and effectively notify employees of the emergency.

Step Four: Assign Roles and Responsibilities
Select specific individuals who will be responsible for leading and coordinating an emergency evacuation. This step is critical in the success of an emergency evacuation plan. The identified individual (or group of individuals) will be required to supervise the evacuation efforts, coordinate outside emergency services, and manage the shutdown of services/operations if deemed necessary. This person will also be the go-to contact for on-site employees.

Step Five: Vital Business Records and Secure Backup
Vital records, including computer backups, should be kept in a waterproof, fireproof container at an off-site storage location. Hard copies should include site maps, building plans, insurance policies, bank account records, and property-specific documents.

Step Six: Deliver Plan and Schedule Regular Mandatory Emergency and Evacuation Employee Trainings.
The emergency evacuation plan should be part of the new hire orientation, incorporated into the employee handbook (made available digitally and printed), and revisited with all employees annually. Whether annual training is managed in-house or executed by the VensureHR Loss Control team, employees must have the tools necessary to ensure they are operating in a safe work environment where emergency evacuation plans have been designed.

Preparing your employees well in advance of an emergency evacuation, and scheduling regular mandatory training sessions is critical to the safety of all employees and the building or worksite. Spend the time to prepare or update an existing evacuation procedure. It may be necessary to make changes to evacuation procedures or how you or employees should respond in specific emergencies.  Contact us for assistance in updating an emergency preparedness plan, to implement a proper risk and safety program, including on-site hazard assessments, or to schedule OSHA training for your employees.