You may feel that your work is a safe zone that is free from disasters but, as the saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry. You might have emergency supplies stockpiled at home and but it’s equally important to be prepared at work. After all, you spend about one-third of your workweek at your office and an emergency at work can strike at any time.
Many natural disasters, ranging from earthquakes to tornadoes, can happen with little to no warning. Likewise, man-made emergencies, such as terrorist attacks and workplace violence, occur out of the blue and unfortunately have become a major concern in recent years. What may start out as a typical workday can quickly escalate into pandemonium.
While you can’t do much to prevent these emergencies, you can lessen their effects by being prepared to handle the aftermath.
Although offices should have clearly labeled escape routes marked to help employees vacate the building in the case of emergencies, many workplaces fail to have additional emergency plans in place for employees. Here are some emergency preparedness ideas that your office may want to consider:
Practice Evacuating the Building – Simply having signs to aid in evacuation may not be enough to keep your employees safe during an emergency. Make sure that everyone understands the route and how to leave the building in a safe and timely manner. If someone is unable to quickly vacate the building on their own, perhaps due to age, injury or disability, come up with a plan to help that person to safety.
Make Employees Aware of Emergency Supplies – From fire extinguishers to first aid kits, inform employees where they can find these life-saving aids and know how to properly use them. Contact your local fire department to inquire about a training session for your employees to get everyone up to speed.
Keep An Emergency Supply Kit Handy – Encourage employees to have their own emergency supply kit at their desk. Kits should include enough water and food for at least three days as well as any medications or other necessary survival items. A change of clothes, basic toiletries, and other comfort items may not be a necessity but are also things you may want to consider.
Spread the Word – Whether it’s a natural disaster or a man-made emergency, make sure that your office has a clear method of communication to inform all employees of the impending danger. You could use a company-wide email, text message or even a loudspeaker to spread the word. If your workplace includes employees who speak different languages, ensure that you have a way of sharing the news with them as well. Assign a person to the role of communicator to notify the entire staff as quickly as possible.
Determine the Appropriate Course of Action – While evacuating the building is undoubtedly the right thing to do in the case of a fire or gas leak, you are likely safer inside the building during other emergencies, like a tornado or hurricane. In these cases, you should move away from the windows and take shelter in the middle of the building. Still, other issues, such as having a gunman inside, are not as straightforward. You may be safer to flee the building if you believe you can safely escape without attracting attention but you may also be safer to hide in a locked room until help arrives.
Do a HeadCount – Make sure that all employees are accounted for after an emergency. Not only will it give you peace of mind to know if everyone is okay but it can also help emergency workers know if someone is possibly injured inside the building. Having a designated meeting spot away from the building will make it easier to find and count everyone.
Reassess Your Emergency Plan – It’s often difficult to determine the effectiveness of an emergency plan until it is fully tested by an actual disaster. Ask employees for feedback and make appropriate changes to improve the plan for the future.
Obviously, we hope that a disaster or emergency at work never strikes your workplace but in the case of an emergency, we hope these ideas will help you and your employees stay safe.